The concepts of tail moment and tail inertia in the single cell gel electrophoresis assay

Mutat Res. 1995 Mar;336(2):123-31. doi: 10.1016/0921-8777(94)00047-a.


Single cell gel electrophoresis under alkaline conditions is a technique used to detect primary DNA damage in individual mammalian cells. Cells embedded in agarose on microscope slides are subjected to lysis, unwinding of DNA and electrophoresis at high pH. After staining with a fluorescent dye, cells with DNA damage display increased migration of genetic material from the cell nucleus. The damage is quantified by measuring the displacement between the genetic material of the nucleus ('comet head') and the resulting 'tail'. The torsional moment of the tail ('tail moment') has been suggested to be an appropriate index of induced DNA damage in considering both the migration of the genetic material as well as the relative amount of DNA in the tail. In the present paper it will be shown that the moment of inertia ('tail inertia'), a not previously described tail parameter, provides a more precise description of the distribution of individual DNA fragments within the tails. The tail inertia was also found to be the most sensitive indicator of the DNA damage induced in peripheral lymphocytes from mice given a single intraperitoneal injection of cyclophosphamide (150 mg/kg b.w.). It is concluded that the tail inertia is an important complement to other tail parameters when looking for damage of DNA with the single cell gel electrophoresis assay.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA / chemistry
  • DNA Damage*
  • Dimethoate / pharmacology
  • Electrophoresis
  • Electrophoresis, Agar Gel / methods*
  • Female
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Lymphocytes / pathology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Motion


  • DNA
  • Dimethoate