HighVia—A Flexible Live-Cell High-Content Screening Pipeline to Assess Cellular Toxicity
Howarth A., Schröder M., Montenegro RC., Drewry DH., Sailem H., Millar V., Müller S., Ebner DV.
High-content screening to monitor disease-modifying phenotypes upon small-molecule addition has become an essential component of many drug and target discovery platforms. One of the most common phenotypic approaches, especially in the field of oncology research, is the assessment of cell viability. However, frequently used viability readouts employing metabolic proxy assays based on homogeneous colorimetric/fluorescent reagents are one-dimensional, provide limited information, and can in many cases yield conflicting or difficult-to-interpret results, leading to misinterpretation of data and wasted resources.The resurgence of high-content, phenotypic screening has significantly improved the quality and breadth of cell viability data, which can be obtained at the very earliest stages of drug and target discovery. Here, we describe a relatively inexpensive, high-throughput, high-content, multiparametric, fluorescent imaging protocol using a live-cell method of three fluorescent probes (Hoechst, Yo-Pro-3, and annexin V), that is amenable to the addition of further fluorophores. The protocol enables the accurate description and profiling of multiple cell death mechanisms, including apoptosis and necrosis, as well as accurate determination of compound IC50, and has been validated on a range of high-content imagers and image analysis software. To validate the protocol, we have used a small library of approximately 200 narrow-spectrum kinase inhibitors and clinically approved drugs. This fully developed, easy-to-use pipeline has subsequently been implemented in several academic screening facilities, yielding fast, flexible, and rich cell viability data for a range of early-stage high-throughput drug and target discovery programs.