Mutation research

Genotoxicity testing: Comparison of the γH2AX focus assay with the alkaline and neutral comet assays.

PMID 28844237


Genotoxicity testing relies on the quantitative measurement of adverse effects, such as chromosome aberrations, micronuclei, and mutations, resulting from primary DNA damage. Ideally, assays will detect DNA damage and cellular responses with high sensitivity, reliability, and throughput. Several novel genotoxicity assays may fulfill these requirements, including the comet assay and the more recently developed γH2AX assay. Although they are thought to be specific for genotoxicants, a systematic comparison of the assays has not yet been undertaken. In the present study, we compare the γH2AX focus assay with the alkaline and neutral versions of the comet assay, as to their sensitivities and limitations for detection of genetic damage. We investigated the dose-response relationships of γH2AX foci and comet tail intensities at various times following treatment with four prototypical genotoxicants, methyl methanesulfonate (MMS), N-methyl-N'-nitro-N-nitrosoguanidine (MNNG), mitomycin C, and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and we tested whether there is a correlation between the endpoints, i.e., alkali-labile sites and DNA strand breaks on the one hand and the cell's response to DNA double-strand breaks and blocked replication forks on the other. Induction of γH2AX foci gave a linear dose response and all agents tested were positive in the assay. The increase in comet tail intensity was also a function of dose; however, mitomycin C was almost completely ineffective in the comet assay, and the doses needed to achieve a significant effect were somewhat higher for some treatments in the comet assay than in the γH2AX foci assay, which was confirmed by threshold analysis. There was high correlation between tail intensity and γH2AX foci for MMS and H2O2, less for MNNG, and none for mitomycin C. From this we infer that the γH2AX foci assay is more reliable, sensitive, and robust than the comet assay for detecting genotoxicant-induced DNA damage.

Related Materials