2017 Volume 42 Issue 2 Pages 205-221
The ATP assay is a highly sensitive and versatile method for measuring cytotoxicity. However, the correlation between the cell viability results obtained using the ATP assay and those obtained using direct cell counting has not been widely reported. Therefore, to evaluate the reliability and limitations of the ATP assay, we compared the results of ATP assay with those of automatic cell counter, which can measure the number and diameter of cells directly, by using 24 compounds and repeating individual experiments thrice. The correlation between the data was low for 7 of the 24 compounds (r2 < 0.8, at least 2 out of 3 experiments). These were the top 7 of the 11 compounds that induced cell hypertrophy. These 7 compounds were also observed to increase the area of mitochondria. However, the last 4 of the 11 compounds increased the cell size but did not increase the mitochondrial area. For the remaining 13 compounds, which had no effect on cell size, a good correlation was observed between the results of the two methods (r2 > 0.8, at least 2 out of 3 experiments), and the cell size was effectively the same as that of the controls. We concluded that the poor correlation between the two methods was attributable to an increase in the content of intracellular ATP because of the chemically induced cell and mitochondrial hypertrophy. We showed that the ATP assay is unsuitable for assessing the cytotoxicity of compounds that induce cell hypertrophy with increase in the mitochondrial area and ATP content.