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Some laboratory issues are taken for granted as they seem to be simple and not worth much thought. This applies to “concentrations of a chemical tested for bioactivity/toxicity”. Can there be any issue about weighing a compound, diluting it in culture medium and calculating the final mass (or particle number)-to-volume ratio? We discuss here some basic concepts about concentrations and their units, addressing also differences between “dose” and “concentration”. The problem of calculated nominal concentrations not necessarily corresponding to local concentrations (relevant for biological effects of a chemical) is highlighted. We present and exemplify different concentration measures, for instance those relying on weight, volume, or particle number of the test compound in a given volume; we also include normalizations to the mass, protein content, or cell number of the reference system. Interconversion is discussed as a major, often unresolved, issue. We put this into the context of the overall objective of defining concentrations, i.e., the determination of threshold values of bioactivity (e.g., an EC50). As standard approach for data display, the negative decadic logarithm of the molar concentrations (–log(M)) is recommended here, but arguments are also presented for exceptions from such a rule. These basic definitions are meant as a foundation for follow-up articles that examine the concepts of nominal, free, and intracellular concentrations to provide guidance on how to relate in vitro concentrations to in vivo doses by in vitro-to-in vivo extrapolation (IVIVE) in order to advance the use of new approach methods (NAM) in regulatory decision making.
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