Among the techniques available for the measurement of the induction and rejoining of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs), pulsed-field gel electrophoresis appears to have the greatest potential to improve the sensitivity limits to study these lesions in the dose range closest to that used in cell survival experiments. Encapsulating the cells in agarose during the experiments. Encapsulating the cells in agarose during the experimental procedure allows the accurate and reproducible measurement of rejoining kinetics with a very minimal time delay immediately after irradiation. The method allows direct comparison of the amount of initial DNA damage sustained with repair kinetics in experiments designed to elucidate the mechanisms underlying differences in radiosensitivity between cell lines, together with analysis of the effect of different radiation qualities. The sensitivity limits of the method are 1 Gy for the double-strand break induction experiments and 10 Gy for rejoining experiments. Under selected conditions, no significant degradation of DNA had been observed in rodent cell lines during repair incubation up to 17 h in either irradiated cells or unirradiated controls (background levels for neutron experiments, 2.2 ± 0.3% at Time 0 compared to 2.3 ± 0.5% after 17 h of incubation; background levels for X-ray experiments, 2.3 ± 0.6% at Time 0 and 3.7 ± 1.1% after 17 h of incubation). In preliminary experiments with the A549 human oat cell carcinoma cell line, DNA DSB background levels remained constant in unirradiated controls up to 4 h in the range reported for the rodent cell line.

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