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Journal of Nucleic Acids
Volume 2010, Article ID 541050, 8 pages
Research Article

Is the Comet Assay a Sensitive Procedure for Detecting Genotoxicity?

1Laboratory of Genotoxicity, Faculty of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Hachinohe National College of Technology, Uwanotai 16-1, Hachinohe, Aomori 039-1192, Japan
2Department of Pharmaceutical Health Care, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Himeji Dokkyo University, Kamiohno 7-2-1, Himeji, Hyogo 670-8524, Japan

Received 30 May 2010; Revised 9 September 2010; Accepted 4 October 2010

Academic Editor: Shigenori Iwai

Copyright © 2010 Satomi Kawaguchi et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Although the Comet assay, a procedure for quantitating DNA damage in mammalian cells, is considered sensitive, it has never been ascertained that its sensitivity is higher than the sensitivity of other genotoxicity assays in mammalian cells. To determine whether the power of the Comet assay to detect a low level of genotoxic potential is superior to those of other genotoxicity assays in mammalian cells, we compared the results of Comet assay with those of micronucleus test (MN test). WTK1 human lymphoblastoid cells were exposed to methyl nitrosourea (MNU), ethyl nitrosourea (ENU), methyl methanesulfonate (MMS), ethyl methanesulfonate (EMS), bleomycin (BLM), or UVC. In Comet assay, cells were exposed to each mutagen with (Comet assay/araC) and without (Comet assay) DNA repair inhibitors (araC and hydroxyurea). Furthermore, acellular Comet assay (acellular assay) was performed to determine how single-strand breaks (SSBs) as the initial damage contributes to DNA migration and/or to micronucleus formation. The lowest genotoxic dose (LGD), which is defined as the lowest dose at which each mutagen causes a positive response on each genotoxicity assay, was used to compare the power of the Comet assay to detect a low level of genotoxic potential and that of MN test; that is, a low LGD indicates a high power. Results are summarized as follows: (1) for all mutagens studied, LGDs were MN test ≦ Comet assay; (2) except for BLM, LGDs were Comet assay/araC ≦ MN test; (3) except for UVC and MNU, LGDs were acellular assay ≦ Comet assay/araC ≦ MN test ≦ Comet assay. The following is suggested by the present findings: (1) LGD in the Comet assay is higher than that in MN test, which suggests that the power of the MN test to detect a low level of genotoxic potential is superior to that of the Comet assay; (2) for the studied mutagens, all assays were able to detect all mutagens correctly, which suggests that the sensitivity of the Comet assay and that of the MN test were exactly identical; (3) the power of the Comet assay to detect a low level of genotoxic potential can be elevated to a level higher than that of MN test by using DNA resynthesis inhibitors, such as araC and HU.