Biochemistry (Moscow)

, Volume 82, Issue 2, pp 192–204 | Cite as

Substrate-specific reduction of tetrazolium salts by isolated mitochondria, tissues, and leukocytes

  • N. I. FedotchevaEmail author
  • E. G. Litvinova
  • M. V. Zakharchenko
  • N. V. Khunderyakova
  • R. S. Fadeev
  • V. V. Teplova
  • T. A. Fedotcheva
  • N. V. Beloborodova
  • M. N. Kondrashova


Tetrazolium salts are commonly used in cytochemical and biochemical studies as indicators of metabolic activity of cells. Formazans, formed by reduction of tetrazolium salts, behave as pseudo-solutions during initial incubation, which allows monitoring their optical density throughout incubation. The criteria and conditions for measuring oxidative activity of mitochondria and dehydrogenase activity in reduction of nitroblue tetrazolium (NBT) and methyl thiazolyl tetrazolium (MTT) in suspensions of isolated mitochondria, tissue homogenates, and leukocytes were investigated in this work. We found that the reduction of these two acceptors depended on the oxidized substrate–NBT was reduced more readily during succinate oxidation, while MTT–during oxidation of NAD-dependent substrates. Reduction of both acceptors was more sensitive to dehydrogenase inhibitors that to respiratory chain inhibitors. The reduction of NBT in isolated mitochondria, in leukocytes in the presence of digitonin, and in liver and kidney homogenates was completely blocked by succinate dehydrogenase inhibitors–malonate and TTFA. Based on these criteria, activation of succinate oxidation was revealed from the increase in malonate-sensitive fraction of the reduced NBT under physiological stress. The effect of progesterone and its synthetic analogs on oxidation of NAD-dependent substrates by mitochondria was investigated using MTT. Both acceptors are also reduced by superoxide anion; the impact of this reaction is negligible or completely absent under physiological conditions, but can become detectable on generation of superoxide induced by inhibitors of individual enzyme complexes or in the case of mitochondrial dysfunction. The results indicate that the recording of optical density of reduced NBT and MTT is a highly sensitive method for evaluation of metabolic activity of mitochondria applicable for different incubation conditions, it offers certain advantages in comparison with other methods (simultaneous incubation of a large set of probes in spectral cuvettes or plates); moreover, it allows determination of activity of separate redox-dependent enzymes when selective inhibitors are available.


nitroblue tetrazolium methyl thiazolyl tetrazolium mitochondria leukocytes stress progesterone 


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Copyright information

© Pleiades Publishing, Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • N. I. Fedotcheva
    • 1
    Email author
  • E. G. Litvinova
    • 1
  • M. V. Zakharchenko
    • 1
  • N. V. Khunderyakova
    • 1
  • R. S. Fadeev
    • 1
  • V. V. Teplova
    • 1
  • T. A. Fedotcheva
    • 2
  • N. V. Beloborodova
    • 3
  • M. N. Kondrashova
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Theoretical and Experimental BiophysicsRussian Academy of SciencesPushchino, Moscow RegionRussia
  2. 2.Pirogov Russian National Research Medical UniversityMoscowRussia
  3. 3.Negovskii Scientific Research Institute of General ReanimatologyMoscowRussia

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