The effect of various substances on living cells may be advantageously studied by exposing them to such substances and observing their subsequent behavior in solutions of a basic dye, brilliant cresyl blue.
The rate of penetration of the basic dye, brilliant cresyl blue, is decreased when cells are exposed to salts with monovalent cations before they are placed in the dye solution (made up with borate buffer mixture). This inhibiting effect is assumed to be due to the effect of the salts on the protoplasm.
This effect is not readily reversible when cells are transferred to distilled water, but it is removed by salts with bivalent or trivalent cations. In some cases it disappears in dye made up with phosphate buffer mixture, or with borate buffer mixture at the pH value in which the borax predominates, and in the case of NaCl it disappears in dye containing NaCl.
No inhibiting effect is seen when cells are exposed to NaCl solution containing MgCl2 before they are placed in the dye solution.
The rate of penetration of dye is not decreased when cells are previously exposed to salts with bivalent and trivalent cations.
The rate is slightly increased when cells are placed in the dye solution containing a salt with monovalent cation and probably with bivalent or trivalent cations. In the case of the bivalent and trivalent salts the increase is so slight that it may be negligible.