The in vivo micronucleus (MN) assay has proven to be an effective measure of genotoxicity potential. However, sampling a single tissue (bone marrow) for a single indicator of genetic damage using the MN assay provides a limited genotoxicity profile. The in vivo alkaline (pH >13) Comet assay, which detects a broad spectrum of DNA damage, can be applied to a variety of rodent tissues following administration of test agents. To determine if the Comet assay is a useful supplement to the in vivo MN assay, a combined test protocol (MN/Comet assay) was conducted in male B6C3F1 mice and F344/N rats using four model genotoxicants: ethyl methanesulfonate (EMS), acrylamide (ACM), cyclophosphamide (CP), and vincristine sulfate (VS). Test compounds were administered on 4 consecutive days at 24-hr intervals (VS was administered to rats for 3 days); animals were euthanized 4 hr after the last administration. All compounds induced significant increases in micronucleated reticulocytes (MN-RET) in the peripheral blood of mice, and all but ACM induced MN-RET in rats. EMS and ACM induced significant increases in DNA damage, measured by the Comet assay, in multiple tissues of mice and rats. CP-induced DNA damage was detected in leukocytes and duodenum cells. VS, a spindle fiber disrupting agent, was negative in the Comet assay. Based on these results, the MN/Comet assay holds promise for providing more comprehensive assessments of potential genotoxicants, and the National Toxicology Program (NTP) is presently using this combined protocol in its overall evaluation of the genotoxicity of substances of public health concern.
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