The ames test: The two-fold rule revisited

Neal F. Cariello, Walter W. Piegorsch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Mutagenicity in the Ames assay is evaluated by comparing the number of revertants observed in treated cultures to those in untreated cultures. Often, some form of the '2-fold rule' is employed, whereby a compound is judged mutagenic if a 2-fold or greater increase is seen in a treated culture. In order to understand the underpinnings of this approach, we study some of its statistical properties. We assume that the number of revertants on any plate from a given two-group experiment follows a Poisson distribution and we address the following questions: (1) what is the false-positive error probability of observing at least a doubling of the number of colonies from the control to the treatment group?; (2) if a given mean number of colonies is postulated for a control group, what number of colonies above the observed control mean provides a false-positive rate of 5%? We also present results for question 1 in the case where the number of revertants follows a negative binomial distribution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-31
Number of pages9
JournalMutation Research - Genetic Toxicology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 10 1996


  • Ames
  • Background
  • Bacterial
  • False-positive error
  • Mutation
  • Negative binomial distribution
  • Poisson distribution
  • Spontaneous

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Genetics


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