Use of the Comet Assay for Studying Environmental Genotoxicity: Comparisons between Visual and Image Analyses

Nanthawan Avishai, Claudette Rabinowitz, Baruch Rinkevich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In order to evaluate the applicability of different measurement parameters employed in the comet assay for analyzing environmental samples, fish hepatoma (RTH-149) cells were exposed to concentrations of the model genotoxic agent hydrogen peroxide (H2O2; 1, 5, and 10 μM) and to five water samples from sites along the Kishan River, the most polluted river in Israel. DNA damage was scared in parallel by visual and computer-image (Viscamet) analyses using 12 different parameters. Each parameter exhibited a different profile of responses. The four visual parameters were highly sensitive to the lowest (1 μM) H2O2 concentration (1.8-7.0-fold of the control). At 10 μM H2O2 exposure, the visual parameter, percentage severe damage, showed the highest (40.3-fold) response while four other parameters, tail area, tail extent moment (Viscomet), mean actual tail length and cumulative tail length (visual analysis), also had substantially elevated responses (8-11-fold). We found that the DNA damage induced by field samples was similar in magnitude to the damage induced by 1 μM H2O2, with only some of the parameters being highly sensitive to the damage. Only about one-half of the parameters could distinguish four significant levels of genotoxicity among the five sampling sites, while the remaining parameters detected only three levels. It is concluded that the choice of parameters for analyzing genotoxicity in ecotoxicological studies should be made in accordance with the characteristics of each parameter.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-165
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental and Molecular Mutagenesis
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Comet assay
  • Computer-image analysis
  • Environmental monitoring
  • Genotoxicity
  • Visual scoring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Epidemiology


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