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Small Molecule Interferences in Resazurin and MTT-Based Metabolic Assays in the Absence of Cells

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journal contribution
posted on 10.05.2018, 00:00 authored by Bella H. Neufeld, Jesus B. Tapia, Alec Lutzke, Melissa M. Reynolds
In vitro assays (such as resazurin and MTT) provide an opportunity to determine the cytotoxicity of novel therapeutics before moving forward with expensive and resource-intensive in vivo studies. A concern with using these assays, however, is the production of false responses in the presence of particular chemical functionalities. To better understand this phenomenon, 19 small molecules at 6 concentrations (1 μM–100 mM) were tested in the presence of resazurin and MTT reagents to highlight potential interfering species. Through the use of absorbance measurements (using well-plate assays and UV–vis spectroscopy) with parallel MS analysis, we have shown that significant conversion of the assay reagents readily occurs in the presence of many tested interfering species without the need for any cellular activity. The most attributable sources of interference seem to arise from the presence of thiol and carboxylic acid moieties. Interestingly, the detectable interferences were more prevalent and larger in the presence of MTT (19 species with some deviations >3000%) compared to resazurin (16 species with largest deviation of ∼150%). Additionally, those deviations in the presence of resazurin were only substantial at high concentrations, while MTT showed deviations across the tested concentrations. This comprehensive study gives insight into chemical functional groups (thiols, amines, amides, carboxylic acids) that may interfere with resazurin and MTT assays in the absence of metabolic activity and indicates that proper control studies must be performed to obtain accurate data from these in vitro assays.

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