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Emerging Metrology for High Throughput Nanomaterial Genotoxicology



Bryant C. Nelson, Christa W. Wright, Yuko Ibuki, Maria Moreno-Villanueva, Hanna L. Karlsson, Giel Hendriks, Christopher M. Sims, Neenu Singh, Shareen H. Doak


The rapid development of the engineered nanomaterial (ENM) manufacturing industry has accelerated the incorporation of ENMs into a wide variety of consumer products across the globe. Unintentionally or not, some of these ENMs may be introduced into the environment or come into contact with humans or other organisms resulting in unexpected biological effects. It is thus prudent to have rapid and robust analytical metrology in place that can be used to critically assess and/or predict the cytotoxicity, as well as the potential genotoxicity of these ENMs. Many of the traditional genotoxicity test methods (e.g., unscheduled DNA synthesis assay, bacterial reverse mutation (Ames) test, etc.,) for determining the DNA damaging potential of chemical and biological compounds are not suitable for the evaluation of ENMs, due to a variety of methodological issues ranging from potential assay interferences to problems centered on low sample throughput. Recently, a number of sensitive, high throughput genotoxicity assays/platforms (CometChip assay, flow cytometry/micronucleus assay, flow cytometry/-H2AX assay, automated “Fluorimetric Detection of Alkaline DNA Unwinding” (FADU) assay, ToxTracker reporter assay) have been developed, based on substantial modifications and enhancements of traditional genotoxicity assays. These new assays have been used for the rapid measurement of DNA damage (strand breaks), chromosomal damage (micronuclei) and for detecting upregulated DNA damage signalling pathways resulting from ENM exposures. In this critical review, we describe and discuss the fundamental measurement principles and measurement endpoints of these new assays, as well as the modes of operation, analytical metrics and potential interferences, as applicable to ENM exposures. An unbiased discussion of the major technical advantages and limitations of each assay for evaluating and predicting the genotoxic potential of ENMs is also provided.


Engineered nanomaterials, genotoxicity, flow cytometry, high throughput, CometChip, micronucleus assay, gamma H2AX, ToxTracker, FADU assay


Nelson, B. , Wright, C. , Ibuki, Y. , Moreno-Villanueva, M. , Karlsson, H. , Hendriks, G. , Sims, C. , Singh, N. and Doak, S. (2016), Emerging Metrology for High Throughput Nanomaterial Genotoxicology, Mutagenesis, [online], (Accessed June 20, 2024)


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Created August 26, 2016, Updated April 25, 2020