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Mutat Res. 2006 Mar;612(2):84-104. Epub 2005 Nov 28.

Assessment of reference values for DNA damage detected by the comet assay in human blood cell DNA.

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  • 1Institute of Public Health, University of Copenhagen, Øster Farimagsgade 5, 2-floor, DK-1014 Copenhagen K, Denmark.


Genotoxicity measured by the comet assay is expressed by different researchers using parameters that are not easy to conceptualize, except for percent tail DNA (%T) or visual score (arbitrary units). A total of 125 publications have reported genotoxicity as DNA damage (representing strand breaks, alkaline labile sites, and transient repair sites), endonuclease III (ENDOIII), or formamidopyrimidine DNA glycosylase (FPG) sensitive sites. I have recalculated the visual score so that it is expressed in the range of 0-100, similar to that of %T. Similar values were obtained for DNA damage and ENDOIII sites, regardless of whether of the data were reported as %T or visual score. Thus, these endpoints can be used interchangeably, assuming that the visual score is expressed in the 0-100 range. Pooled analysis of %T and visual score data showed that the median (25-75%) values of DNA damage, ENDOIII, and FPG sites were 8.6 (4.4-14.5), 11.0 (4.2-19.5), 7.6 (3.2-14.2), respectively. The duration of alkaline treatment and electrophoresis had no significant effect on the level of DNA damage. There was a positive correlation between age and the level of DNA damage. A sub-analysis of DNA damage obtained from European countries showed a negative correlation with latitude. In conclusion, reference values for DNA lesions measured by the comet assay are around 7-11 %T or arbitrary units.

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