A comparative performance test of standard, medium- and high-throughput comet assays
A serious limitation of the conventional comet assay (single cell gel electrophoresis) is the restriction on the number of samples that can be processed in one experiment, imposed by the size of the electrophoresis platform. One approach to increasing throughput is to reduce the size of gels. We here compare the conventional system of two large gels on a microscope slide, with two recent developments, namely 12 minigels per slide, and a format with 96 minigels on GelBond (R) film. We used cells treated with X-rays or methylmethanesulphonate (MMS). The level of damage detected (% tail DNA) in X-irradiated or MMS-treated cells was not affected by the format used. Parallel experiments, using all three formats, were performed with MMS-treated cells in two independent laboratories; the difference in results between the two laboratories was of borderline significance. The potential problem of anomalous comets seen at the border of the gel, the so-called 'edge effects', has been addressed. A reliable, high throughput comet assay has applications in genotoxicity testing (particularly for in vivo studies with samples from different organs) as well as ecogenotoxicology and human biomonitoring, where the numbers of samples collected can be considerable.