Variation in the measurement of DNA damage by comet assay measured by the ECVAG inter-laboratory validation trial

L. Forchhammer, C. Johansson, S. Loft, L. Moller, R.W. Godschalk, S.A. Langie, G.D. Jones, R.W. Kwok, A.R. Collins, A. Azqueta, D.H. Phillips, O. Sozeri, M. Stepnik, J. Palus, U. Vogel, H. Wallin, M.N. Routledge, C. Handforth, A. Allione, G. MatulloJ.P. Teixeira, S. Costa, P. Riso, M. Porrini, P. Moller*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    127 Citations (Web of Science)


    The comet assay has become a popular method for the assessment of DNA damage in biomonitoring studies and genetic toxicology. However, few studies have addressed the issue of the noted inter-laboratory variability of DNA damage measured by the comet assay. In this study, 12 laboratories analysed the level of DNA damage in monocyte-derived THP-1 cells by either visual classification or computer-aided image analysis of pre-made slides, coded cryopreserved samples of cells and reference standard cells (calibration curve samples). The reference standard samples were irradiated with ionizing radiation (0-10 Gy) and used to construct a calibration curve to calculate the number of lesions per 10(6) base pair. All laboratories detected dose-response relationships in the coded samples irradiated with ionizing radiation (1.5-7 Gy), but there were overt differences in the level of DNA damage reported by the different laboratories as evidenced by an inter-laboratory coefficient of variation (CV) of 47%. Adjustment of the primary comet assay end points by a calibration curve prepared in each laboratory reduced the CV to 28%, a statistically significant reduction (P < 0.05, Levene's test). A large fraction of the inter-laboratory variation originated from differences in image analysis, whereas the intra-laboratory variation was considerably smaller than the variation between laboratories. In summary, adjustment of primary comet assay results by reference standards reduces inter-laboratory variation in the level of DNA damage measured by the alkaline version of the comet assay.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)113-123
    Number of pages11
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2010


    • IN-VIVO
    • ISSUES
    • REPAIR
    • VITRO

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