Localization of MTT formazan in lipid droplets. An alternative hypothesis about the nature of formazan granules and aggregates


MTT (3-(4, 5-dimethyl-2-thiazolyl)-2, 5-dihphenyltetrazolium bromide) assay is a widely used method to assess cell viability and proliferation. MTT is readily taken up by cells and enzymatically reduced to formazan, a dark compound which accumulates in cytoplasmic granules. Formazan is later eliminated by the cell by a mechanisms often indicated as exocytosis, that produces characteristic needle-like aggregates on the cell surface. The shape of formazan aggregates and the rate of exocytosis change in the presence of bioactive amyloid b peptides (Ab) and cholesterol. Though the cellular mechanisms involved in MTT reduction have been extensively investigated, the exact nature of formazan granules and the process of exocytosis are still obscure. Using Nile Red, which stains differentially neutral and polar lipids, and a fluorescent analog of cholesterol (NBD-cholesterol), we found that formazan localized in lipid droplets, consistent with the lipophilic nature of formazan. However, formazan granules and aggregates were also found to form after killing cells with paraformaldehyde fixation. Moreover, formazan aggregates were also obtained in cell-free media, using ascorbic acid to reduce MTT. The density and shape of formazan aggregates obtained in cell-free media was sensitive to cholesterol and Ab. In cells, electron microscopy failed to detect the presence of secretory vesicles, but revealed unusual fibers of 50 nm of diameter extending throughout the cytoplasm. Taken together, these findings suggest that formazan efflux is driven by physico-chemical interactions at molecular level without involving higher cytological mechanisms.


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How to Cite
Diaz, G., Melis, M., Musinu, A., Piludu, M., Piras, M., & Falchi, A. (2009). Localization of MTT formazan in lipid droplets. An alternative hypothesis about the nature of formazan granules and aggregates. European Journal of Histochemistry, 51(3), 213-218. https://doi.org/10.4081/1145