Defining viability in mammalian cell cultures


A large number of assays are available to monitor viability in mammalian cell cultures with most defining loss of viability as a loss of plasma membrane integrity, a characteristic of necrotic cell death. However, the majority of cultured cells die by apoptosis and early apoptotic cells, although non-viable, maintain an intact plasma membrane and are thus ignored. Here we measure the viability of cultures of a number of common mammalian cell lines by assays that measure membrane integrity (a measure of necrotic cell death) and assays that measure apoptotic cells, and show that discrepancies in the measurement of culture viability have a significant impact on the calculation of cell culture parameters and lead to skewed experimental data.

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Correspondence to Mohamed Al-Rubeai.

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Browne, S.M., Al-Rubeai, M. Defining viability in mammalian cell cultures. Biotechnol Lett 33, 1745–1749 (2011).

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  • Apoptosis
  • Biopharmaceuticals
  • Mammalian cell culture
  • Necrosis
  • Viability