Histone H2AX phosphorylation: a marker for DNA damage

Methods Mol Biol. 2012;920:613-26. doi: 10.1007/978-1-61779-998-3_40.


The DNA damage response can be initiated in response to a variety of stress signals that are encountered during physiological processes or in response to exogenous cues, such as ionizing radiation or DNA-damaging therapeutic agents. A number of methods have been developed to examine the morphological, biochemical, and molecular changes that take place during the DNA damage response. When cells are exposed to ionizing radiation or DNA-damaging chemotherapeutic agents, double-stranded breaks (DSBs) are generated that rapidly result in the phosphorylation of histone H2A variant H2AX. Because phosphorylation of H2AX at Ser 139 (γ-H2AX) is abundant, fast, and correlates well with each DSB, it is the most sensitive marker that can be used to examine the DNA damage produced and the subsequent repair of the DNA lesion. γ-H2AX can be detected by immunoblotting and immunostaining using microscopic or flow cytometric detection. Since γ-H2AX can be also generated during DNA replication, as a consequence of apoptosis, or as it is found associated with residual DNA damage, it is important to determine the kinetics, number, size, and morphology of γ-H2AX-associated foci. This chapter describes a few standard protocols that we have successfully used in our laboratory for a number of experimental systems, primarily hematologic and epithelial cells grown in culture.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Separation
  • DNA Damage*
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Histones / isolation & purification
  • Histones / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Lymphocytes / cytology
  • Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Phosphorylation


  • Biomarkers
  • H2AX protein, human
  • Histones