, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 5-32
Date: 22 Apr 2008

Comet assay: a reliable tool for the assessment of DNA damage in different models

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New chemicals are being added each year to the existing burden of toxic substances in the environment. This has led to increased pollution of ecosystems as well as deterioration of the air, water, and soil quality. Excessive agricultural and industrial activities adversely affect biodiversity, threatening the survival of species in a particular habitat as well as posing disease risks to humans. Some of the chemicals, e.g., pesticides and heavy metals, may be genotoxic to the sentinel species and/or to non-target species, causing deleterious effects in somatic or germ cells. Test systems which help in hazard prediction and risk assessment are important to assess the genotoxic potential of chemicals before their release into the environment or commercial use as well as DNA damage in flora and fauna affected by contaminated/polluted habitats. The Comet assay has been widely accepted as a simple, sensitive, and rapid tool for assessing DNA damage and repair in individual eukaryotic as well as some prokaryotic cells, and has increasingly found application in diverse fields ranging from genetic toxicology to human epidemiology. This review is an attempt to comprehensively encase the use of Comet assay in different models from bacteria to man, employing diverse cell types to assess the DNA-damaging potential of chemicals and/or environmental conditions. Sentinel species are the first to be affected by adverse changes in their environment. Determination of DNA damage using the Comet assay in these indicator organisms would thus provide information about the genotoxic potential of their habitat at an early stage. This would allow for intervention strategies to be implemented for prevention or reduction of deleterious health effects in the sentinel species as well as in humans.