Quinones are well established as key players in the production of reactive oxygen species within cellular environments. Many factors govern their cytotoxicity but most studies have been restricted to a few, core, derivatives. A new strategy for the in situ production of quinone derivatives has been developed such that libraries of diverse functionality can be rapidly created without recourse to extensive synthetic procedures. The approach relies upon nucleophilic addition by reduced thiol derivatives to the quinone core within a pre-culture assay mixture and provides a generic strategy that exploits the large reservoir of commercial thiols currently available. A readily accessible chromatographic method has been developed that allows the derivatisation process to be easily monitored and the purity of the resulting one pot preparation to be assessed. The viability of the combinatorial approach has been fully validated through comparison with a range of quinone-S-conjugates prepared using conventional bench synthesis. The latter have been fully characterised. (c) 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.