Development of an XTT tetrazolium salt-based assay for detection of specific hyperthermia sensitizers in a high-flux screening programme

S. Lechpammer, A. Asea, R. Mallick, R. Zhong, M. Y. Sherman, S. K. Calderwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


It is now possible to search for new drugs using high-throughput screening of chemical libraries accumulated over the past few years. To detect potential new hyperthermia sensitizers, we are screening for chemical inhibitors of thermotolerance. For the screening of a large chemical library, a rapid and simple assay based on the XTT-tetrazolium salt with the addition of intermediate electron acceptor, phenazine methosulphate (PMS) as a promoter, was developed. It was found that the sensitivity of the XTT/PMS assay is sufficient for assessing thermal cell killing and thermotolerance, although it was highly dependent on cell number and type. When the formazan assay system was challenged with the bioflavonoid drug quercetin (up to 25 mm) and validated against the clonogenic cell survival assay, significant decreases in thermotolerant cell viability were observed, directly reflecting inhibition of thermotolerance. Although short-term assays can, in some instances, underestimate overall cell killing, the dose dependency of inhibition of thermotolerance by quercetin recorded in this study by clonogenic and XTT/PMS assays was similar. Application of the XTT/PMS assay in chemical library screening was highly effective in differentiating potential thermotolerance inhibitors from both chemicals with lack of efficacy and from toxic compounds. Taken together, these results show that the XTT/PMS assay, when carried out under careful conditions, is well suited for primary high-flux screen of many thousands of compounds, thus opening up new areas for discovery of hyperthermia sensitizers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-215
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Hyperthermia
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Drug discovery
  • Hyperthermia
  • Hyperthermic sensitizer
  • Microculture tetrazolium assay
  • Quercetin
  • XTT


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