A combination of in vitro comet assay and micronucleus test using human lymphoblastoid TK6 cells

Mutagenesis. 2013 Sep;28(5):583-90. doi: 10.1093/mutage/get036. Epub 2013 Jul 17.


The comet assay has been widely used as a genotoxicity test for detecting primary DNA damage in individual cells. The micronucleus (MN) test is also a well-established assay for detecting clastogenicity and aneugenicity. A combination of the comet assay (COM) and MN test is capable of detecting a variety of genotoxic potentials as an in vitro screening system. Although the in vitro MN test has a robust protocol and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) test guideline, the in vitro COM does not. To establish a robust protocol for the COM and to compare its sensitivity with that of the MN, we conducted COM and MN concurrently for five genotoxic agents (ethyl methanesulfonate, methyl methanesulfonate, hydrogen peroxide, gamma-rays and mitomycin C) and one non-genotoxic agent (triton X-100), using human lymphoblastoid TK6 cells. Relative cell count (RCC), relative population doubling (RPD), relative increase in cell count (RICC) and relative cell viability determined by trypan blue dye-exclusion assay (TBDE) were employed as cytotoxic measurements. However, the relative cell viability determined by TBDE just after the treatment was not an appropriate parameter of cytotoxicity for the genotoxic agents because it remained constant even at the highest doses, which showed severe cytotoxicity by RCC, RPD and RICC. The results of the COM showed qualitative agreement (positive or negative) with those of the MN except for mitomycin C, which is an interstrand cross-linker. The COM always required higher doses than the MN to detect the genotoxic potential of the genotoxic agents under the test conditions applied here. The doses that induced a comet tail always yielded <50% RICC, and do not accord to the OECD test guideline for MN because of their high cytotoxicity. These results are helpful for interpreting the results of the COM and MN in in vitro genotoxic hazard assessments. Further investigation is required to standardise the COM.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Comet Assay / methods*
  • Cross-Linking Reagents / toxicity
  • Cytotoxins / pharmacology
  • Ethyl Methanesulfonate / toxicity
  • Gamma Rays
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / toxicity
  • Methyl Methanesulfonate / toxicity
  • Micronucleus Tests / methods*
  • Mitomycin / toxicity
  • Mutagenicity Tests
  • Mutagens / toxicity
  • Octoxynol / toxicity
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Cross-Linking Reagents
  • Cytotoxins
  • Mutagens
  • Mitomycin
  • Octoxynol
  • Ethyl Methanesulfonate
  • Methyl Methanesulfonate
  • Hydrogen Peroxide