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Differential nuclear staining assay for high-throughput screening to identify cytotoxic compounds

Differential nuclear staining assay for high-throughput screening to identify cytotoxic compounds

Current Cellular Biochemistry 1(1): 1-14

As large quantities of novel synthetic molecules continue to be generated there is a challenge to identify therapeutic agents with cytotoxic activity. Here we introduce a Differential Nuclear Staining (DNS) assay adapted to live-cell imaging for high throughput screening (HTS) that utilizes two fluorescent DNA intercalators, Hoechst 33342 and Propidium iodide (PI). Since Hoechst can readily cross cell membranes to stain DNA of living and dead cells, it was used to label the total number of cells. In contrast, PI only enters cells with compromised plasma membranes, thus selectively labeling dead cells. The DNS assay was successfully validated by utilizing well known cytotoxic agents with fast or slow cytotoxic activities. The assay was found to be suitable for HTS with Z' factors ranging from 0.86 to 0.60 for 96 and 384-well formats, respectively. Furthermore, besides plate-to-plate reproducibility, assay quality performance was evaluated by determining ratios of signal-to-noise and signal-to-background, as well as coefficient of variation, which resulted in adequate values and validated the assay for HTS initiatives. As proof of concept, eighty structurally diverse compounds from a small molecule library were screened in a 96-well plate format using the DNS assay. Using this DNS assay, six hits with cytotoxic properties were identified and all of them were also successfully identified by using the commercially available MTS assay (CellTiter 96® Cell Proliferation Assay). In addition, the DNS and a flow cytometry assay were used to validate the activity of the cytotoxic compounds. The DNS assay was also used to generate dose-response curves and to obtain CC50 values. The results indicate that the DNS assay is reliable and robust and suitable for primary and secondary screens of compounds with potential cytotoxic activity.

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Accession: 057623464

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PMID: 27042697

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