Assessment of DNA integrity (COMET assay) in sperm cells of boron-exposed workers
The DNA of human and mouse sperm cells was analyzed by single-cell microgel electrophoresis, by agarose gel electrophoresis, and by alkaline elution--three techniques that can detect single-strand DNA breaks and/or labile sites. Under these conditions a surprisingly large number of single-strand DNA breaks, approximately 10(6) to 10(7) per genome, were detected in human and mouse sperm but not in human lymphocytes or in mouse bone marrow cells. These breaks were also present in chicken erythrocyte DNA, which is also highly condensed. These breaks were not observed under neutral pH conditions nor under denaturing conditions not involving alkali, suggesting that these sites are alkali-sensitive and do not represent preexisting single-strand breaks. The high frequency of such sites in sperm from healthy mouse and human donors suggests that they represent a functional characteristic of condensed chromatin rather than DNA damage.