Lactate dehydrogenase (LDH)-release assay was applied to estimate the toxic potential of harmful algal species at the cellular level. African green monkey kidney (Vero), yellowtail fin epithelia (MJF), and rainbow trout gill (RTgill-W1) cells were used as target cells. A live cell suspension of Karenia mikimotoi (SUO-1) induced the release of LDH from these cell lines, while the activity of another strain, FUK, was much lower. The cell-free culture supernatants and ruptured cell suspensions of both strains of K. mikimotoi were less effective on LDH-release assay. Exposure experiments against abalone and shrimp revealed that SUO-1 showed much stronger lethal effects on these organisms than FUK. Among six phytoplankton species, three species known to be harmful algal species induced the release of LDH to different extents depending on the cell line, whereas the other three species, known to be non-toxic, showed no effects on any cell lines. These results suggest that LDH-release assay is a useful micro-plate assay for estimation of the toxic potential of harmful phytoplankton.