Fluorescence Sheds Light on DNA Damage, DNA Repair, and Mutations

Trends Cancer. 2021 Mar;7(3):240-248. doi: 10.1016/j.trecan.2020.10.006. Epub 2020 Nov 14.


DNA damage can lead to carcinogenic mutations and toxicity that promotes diseases. Therefore, having rapid assays to quantify DNA damage, DNA repair, mutations, and cytotoxicity is broadly relevant to health. For example, DNA damage assays can be used to screen chemicals for genotoxicity, and knowledge about DNA repair capacity has applications in precision prevention and in personalized medicine. Furthermore, knowledge of mutation frequency has predictive power for downstream cancer, and assays for cytotoxicity can predict deleterious health effects. Tests for all of these purposes have been rendered faster and more effective via adoption of fluorescent readouts. Here, we provide an overview of established and emerging cell-based assays that exploit fluorescence for studies of DNA damage and its consequences.

Keywords: DNA damage; DNA repair; comet assay; fluorescence assays; γH2AX.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Assay / methods*
  • Carcinogens / toxicity*
  • Cell Line
  • DNA Damage / drug effects
  • DNA Repair / drug effects
  • Fluorescence
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Humans
  • Intravital Microscopy / methods*
  • Luminescent Proteins / chemistry
  • Luminescent Proteins / genetics
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Mutation
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / pathology


  • Carcinogens
  • Luminescent Proteins