Genotoxic bifunctional aldehydes produce specific images in the comet assay

Mutat Res. 1998 Nov 9;419(1-3):69-78. doi: 10.1016/s1383-5718(98)00125-9.


Seven genotoxic aldehydes (acrolein, chloroacetaldehyde, crotonaldehyde, formaldehyde, glutardialdehyde, glyoxal, and methylacrolein) have been studied in vitro using the alkaline version of the comet assay (or single cell microgel electrophoresis assay) in freshly isolated rat hepatocytes. Chloroacetaldehyde, glyoxal and methylacrolein treatment resulted in an elevated tail moment (TM), used as indicator for an DNA damaging activity and formation of comet like structures. In addition, this treatment also caused characteristic DNA spot images with small, highly condensed areas within the otherwise circular DNA spots. These were not seen in solvent and N-Methyl-N'-nitro-N-nitrosoguanidine (MNNG)-treated control cells. Treatment of hepatocytes with acrolein, crotonaldehyde, formaldehyde and glutardialdehyde resulted in an TM which did not differ from those of control values although 86-95% of the cells showed characteristic changes of their DNA spot images. The condensed areas are probably the consequence of the known DNA and protein crosslinking activities of these bifunctional aldehydes. It is suggested that using the alkaline comet assay both TM (or overall comet length) as well as changes in the DNA spot image should be evaluated.

MeSH terms

  • Aldehydes / toxicity*
  • Animals
  • DNA Damage
  • Electrophoresis, Agar Gel
  • Liver
  • Male
  • Mutagenicity Tests / methods*
  • Mutagens / toxicity*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Aldehydes
  • Mutagens