Comet assay: an essential tool in toxicological research

Arch Toxicol. 2016 Oct;90(10):2315-36. doi: 10.1007/s00204-016-1767-y. Epub 2016 Jul 5.


The comet assay is a versatile, reliable, cost-efficient, and fast technique for detecting DNA damage and repair in any tissue. It is useable in almost any cell type and applicable to both eukaryotic and prokaryotic organisms. Instead of highlighting one of the numerous specific aspects of the comet assay, the present review aims at giving an overview about the evolution of this widely applicable method from the first description by Ostling and Johanson to the OECD Guideline 489 for the in vivo mammalian comet assay. In addition, methodical aspects and the influence of critical steps of the assay as well as the evaluation of results and improvements of the method are reviewed. Methodical aspects regarding oxidative DNA damage and repair are also addressed. An overview about the most recent works and relevant cutting-edge reviews based on the comet assay with special regard to, e.g., clinical applications, nanoparticles or environmental risk assessment concludes this review. Taken together, the presented overview raises expectations to further decades of successful applications and enhancements of this excellent method.

Keywords: Comet assay; DNA damage; DNA repair; Genotoxicity; Single-cell gel electrophoresis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomedical Research / methods*
  • Biomedical Research / trends
  • Cell Line
  • Comet Assay / methods*
  • DNA Damage*
  • DNA Repair*
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Humans
  • Toxicology / methods*
  • Toxicology / trends