Influence of cytotoxicity and compound precipitation on test results in the alkaline comet assay

Andreas Hartmann, Evangelos Kiskinis, Ann Fjällman, Willi Suter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


We use the comet assay as part of our genotoxicity screening battery for newly synthesized drug candidates. A dataset of more than 250 tests carried out with 75 drug candidates of various chemical classes was analyzed to elucidate the influence of cytotoxicity and compound precipitation on DNA migration in the comet assay. Using a V79 Chinese hamster cell line, 38 of the compounds were negative and 37 were positive in the comet assay. The reproducibility of test results between repeat experiments was 85%. Data on 72 tests with a negative call in which the compounds were tested up to highly cytotoxic concentrations demonstrated that cytotoxicity, as determined by Trypan blue dye exclusion and occurrence of cells with completely fragmented chromatin, did not lead to false positive test results. The majority (64.2%) of compounds with a positive call induced elevated DNA migration in the absence of excessive cytotoxicity. Compound precipitation was observed in 84 tests. In 88.1% of these cases, the test result at the precipitating concentration did not differ from that found at the highest soluble concentration. Half of the remaining 11.9% of contrary results (most of them weak effects) were not reproducible in the respective repeat experiment, indicating no or only a negligible influence of precipitation on test results. The data indicate that using V79 cells, the comet assay specifically detects genotoxic effects and is not confounded by cytotoxicity or compound precipitation under the conditions used.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)199-212
Number of pages14
JournalMutation Research - Genetic Toxicology and Environmental Mutagenesis
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Oct 18 2001


  • Alkaline comet assay
  • Compound precipitation
  • Cytotoxicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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