Further investigations on the modified comet assay for measuring aphidicolin-block nucleotide excision repair

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The comet assay is increasingly used to measure the repair of various types of DNA damage. Modifications of the standard protocol have been introduced to determine the repair capacity of specific DNA repair pathways by the removal of pathway-specific DNA lesions. Recently, a cellular phenotype assay for nucleotide excision repair (NER) by quantifying the DNA strand breaks after in vitro challenge of peripheral blood mononucleated cells with benzo[a]pyrene diol epoxide (BPDE) in the presence or absence of the DNA polymerase inhibitor aphidicolin (APC) was developed (Vande Loock, K., Decordier, I., Ciardelli, R., Haumont, D. and Kirsch-Volders, M. (2010) An aphidicolin-block nucleotide excision repair assay measuring DNA incision and repair capacity. Mutagenesis, 25, 25–32). Individual repair capacity (RC) was defined as the amount of DNA damage induced by BPDE in the presence of APC minus the damage induced by BPDE and APC alone. This value should mainly reflect the incision capacity of the NER enzymes. Following this approach, we investigated the RC of cultured isolated peripheral blood mononuclear cells of nine donors in repeated experiments. We also performed the same experiments with peripheral whole blood cultures from these donors. Our results indicated considerable intra- and inter-individual variability and substantial differences between the RC of isolated mononuclear cells and whole blood from the same donor. Furthermore, the RC of unstimulated blood did not differ significantly from the repair capacity of stimulated blood but also showed considerable inter-individual variability. Altogether, our results suggest that there is still need for standardisation and validation of this assay before it can be reliably used in human biomonitoring studies.

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