Modification of the alkaline Comet assay to allow simultaneous evaluation of mitomycin C-induced DNA cross-link damage and repair of specific DNA sequences in RT4 cells

DNA Repair (Amst). 2003 Aug 12;2(8):879-90. doi: 10.1016/s1568-7864(03)00086-7.


The alkaline Comet assay is a simple, sensitive method for measuring the extent of DNA strand breaks in individual cells. Several modifications to the original assay have been developed to increase its applications. One such modification allows the measurement of DNA cross-links by assessing the relative reduction in DNA migration induced by a strand-breaking agent. Another modification includes the application of fluorescent in situ hybridisation (FISH) to investigate the localisation of specific gene domains within a cell. Although several studies have used these approaches separately, no report to date has combined these two versions of the Comet assay. The current study describes the modification of the Comet assay, to allow both measurement of mitomycin C (MMC)-induced cross-links and the subsequent application of FISH to study repair in the TP53 gene region. RT4 human bladder cancer cells were treated with 0, 5, 50 and 200 microg/ml MMC to study dose response, whilst for cross-link repair studies, they were treated with 50 microg/ml MMC and allowed to repair for up to 24 h. A clear dose response to MMC was displayed, demonstrable by a marked reduction in DNA migration, whilst repair studies showed that MMC-induced cross-links take at least 24 h to repair fully in RT4 cells. For Comet-FISH experiments, the number and location of TP53 hybridisation spots was also recorded for each cell. In dose response experiments, the number of spots per cell, and per Comet tail, decreased as MMC dose increased. In repair experiments, the number of spots, particularly in the Comet tail, increased as repair time increased. Furthermore, our results suggest that repair of the TP53 gene region is most rapid within the first 4 h following MMC treatment. We conclude that the novel experimental protocol presented here has considerable potential in evaluating DNA damage and sequence-related repair responses to cross-linking agents.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Comet Assay / methods*
  • Cross-Linking Reagents / pharmacology*
  • DNA Damage / radiation effects*
  • DNA Repair / drug effects*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Gamma Rays
  • Humans
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence / methods
  • Mitomycin / pharmacology*


  • Cross-Linking Reagents
  • Mitomycin