Application of the comet assay for the evaluation of DNA damage in mature sperm

Mutat Res Rev Mutat Res. Jul-Dec 2021;788:108398. doi: 10.1016/j.mrrev.2021.108398. Epub 2021 Nov 9.

Abstract

DNA integrity is considered an important parameter of semen quality and is of significant value as a predictor of male fertility. Currently, there are several methods that can assess sperm DNA integrity. One such assay is the comet assay, or single-cell gel electrophoresis, which is a simple, sensitive, reliable, quick and low-cost technique that is used for measuring DNA strand breaks and repair at the level of individual cells. Although the comet assay is usually performed with somatic cells from different organs, the assay has the ability to detect genotoxicity in germ cells at different stages of spermatogenesis. Since the ability of sperm to remove DNA damage differs between the stages, interpretation of the results is dependent on the cells used. In this paper we give an overview on the use and applications of the comet assay on mature sperm and its ability to detect sperm DNA damage in both animals and humans. Overall, it can be concluded that the presence in sperm of significantly damaged DNA, assessed by the comet assay, is related to male infertility and seems to reduce live births. Although there is some evidence that sperm DNA damage also has a long-term impact on offspring's health, this aspect of DNA damage in sperm is understudied and deserves further attention. In summary, the comet assay can be applied as a useful tool to study effects of genotoxic exposures on sperm DNA integrity in animals and humans.

Keywords: Comet assay; DNA damage; Ecotoxicology; Human reproduction; Reproductive toxicology; Sperm.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Comet Assay / methods*
  • DNA Damage*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Spermatozoa / metabolism*
  • Spermatozoa / pathology