Intracellular adenosine triphosphate as a measure of human tumor cell viability and drug modulated growth

Frederick R. Ahmann, Harinder S. Garewal, Ron Schifman, Abbie Celniker, Stephen Rodney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Adenosine triphosphate is the primary energy unit for cells, and levels of this compound offer a potential marker for cell viability and growth. The availability of a bioluminescence assay allows for a rapid, sensitive, and reproducible measurement of ATP. A method is described for the quantification of intracellular ATP levels in human cancer cells. ATP levels were linearly related to the number of viable cells and increased with time in human cancer cell line cultures correlating with growth kinetics. The effect of 5-fluorouracil, doxorubicin, methotrexate, cytosine arabinoside, nitrogen mustard, melphalan, vinblastine, and cisplatin on the growth of human cancer cell lines was studied utilizing ATP levels. ATP levels and colony formation in agar of drug-exposed cells were compared. Overall there was a significant correlation between drug effects on colony formation and ATP levels. The ATP assay is rapid, simple, reproducible, and a relatively inexpensive method of quantifying drug effects on malignant cells. This makes it a potentially useful method for screening new anticancer drugs in human cancer cell lines.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)474-480
Number of pages7
JournalIn Vitro Cellular & Developmental Biology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1987
Externally publishedYes


  • ATP assay
  • anticancer drug test

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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