Cell viability score (CVS) as a good indicator of critical concentration of benzalkonium chloride for toxicity in cultured ocular surface cell lines

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Cytotoxicity of benzalkonium chloride (BAK) is a major factor affecting drug cytotoxicity. This study aimed to determine the critical concentration of BAK for cultured ocular cells, using SIRC (rabbit corneal epithelium), BCE C/D-1b (bovine corneal epithelial cells), RC-1 (rabbit corneal epithelium), and Chang (human conjunctival cells). Cell viability was determined following the exposure of cells to 11 concentrations of BAK for 10, 30, or 60 min using the 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyl tetrazolium bromide (MTT) and neutral red assays, and the cell viability score (CVS) was used to evaluate comprehensively the toxicity of BAK. The CVS system consists of two values. The CVS50 was determined by the number of measurements for viability ≥50% of control. The CVS40/80 was calculated as follows: CVS40/80 = (number of measurements for viability values >80%) − (number of measurements for viability values <40%). Both %CVS50 and %CVS40/80 decreased with concentrations of BAK. When BAK concentrations were 0.01% or higher, %CVS50 and %CVS40/80 became 0 and less than −90, respectively. Meanwhile, when BAK concentrations were 0.001% or lower, %CVS50 became 100. In the case of %CVS40/80, when the BAK concentrations were 0.002% or lower, the values reached 75 or more, and when 0.0005% or lower, the %CVS40/80 value reached 100. Accordingly, BAK induced very low cytotoxicity in the cultured ocular cell lines at concentrations of 0.002% or lower. The concentration-dependency confirmed that the CVS score is useful for expressing drug cytotoxicity in a simple and comprehensive manner.

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