DNA comet Giemsa staining for conventional bright-field microscopy

Int J Mol Sci. 2014 Apr 10;15(4):6086-95. doi: 10.3390/ijms15046086.


This study was undertaken to evaluate the compatibility of Giemsa staining protocol with the comet assay. We showed, for the first time, that DNA comets can be visualized and analyzed using Giemsa staining. We generated DNA damage dose response curves for human peripheral blood lymphocytes exposed to X-ray radiation using the comet assay with either SybrGreen I or Giemsa stain. The dose response curves were fitted by linear regressions (R2>0.977). The SybrGreen I results showed only ~1.2-fold higher slope coefficient (method sensitivity) compared to the Giemsa results. The unexpectedly high sensitivity of Giemsa staining for the comet assay is due to the Romanowsky-Giemsa effect, the stain photo-stability and the higher resolution of bright-field imaging compared to fluorescence imaging. Our results demonstrate that Giemsa staining can effectively be used for measuring DNA damage by the comet assay. The low cost and availability of Giemsa stain makes this method affordable for any low budget research and will facilitate new applications of the comet assay in biology and medicine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Benzothiazoles
  • Comet Assay
  • DNA / chemistry*
  • DNA Damage / radiation effects
  • Diamines
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymphocytes / pathology
  • Lymphocytes / radiation effects
  • Microscopy*
  • Organic Chemicals / chemistry
  • Organic Chemicals / metabolism
  • Quinolines
  • X-Rays


  • Benzothiazoles
  • Diamines
  • Organic Chemicals
  • Quinolines
  • SYBR Green I
  • DNA