Rapid test to detect agents that damage human DNA


PERHAPS the most successful screening test to detect potential mutagens and/or carcinogens is that of Ames et al.1, using Salmonella. Attempts to use mammalian cells have generally involved measuring some cellular response to DNA damage, for example, induction of DNA repair2; if the response implies that an agent has damaged the DNA, the agent is considered to be a potential mutagen and/or carcinogen. An early response to DNA damage in human cells is inhibition of DNA synthesis. But certain non-DNA-damaging agents also inhibit DNA synthesis. I show here that DNA-damaging and non-DNA-damaging agents can be distinguished by the changes in the rates of DNA synthesis after treatment: with a DNA-damaging agent, the rate of DNA synthesis continues to decrease, but with a non-DNA-damaging agent the rate of DNA synthesis increases after treatment.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. 1

    Ames, B. N., Durston, W. E., Yamasaki, E. & Lee, F. D. Proc. natn. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 70, 2281–2285 (1973).

  2. 2

    San, R. H. C. & Stich, H. F. Int. J. Cancer 16, 284–291 (1975).

  3. 3

    Ames, B. N., McCann, J. & Yamasaki, E. Mutat. Res. 31, 347–364 (1975).

  4. 4

    Cleaver, J. E. & Thomas, G. H. Biochem. biophys. Res. Commun. 36, 203–208 (1969).

  5. 5

    Lehmann, A. R. J. molec. Biol. 66, 319–337 (1972).

  6. 6

    Makino, F. & Okada, S. Radiat. Res. 62, 37–51 (1975).

  7. 7

    Walters, R. A. & Hildebrand, C. E. Biochem. biophys. Res. Commun. 65, 265–271 (1975).

  8. 8

    Painter, R. B. & Young, B. R. Radiat. Res. 64, 648–656 (1975).

  9. 9

    Painter, R. B. Mutat. Res. (in the press).

  10. 10

    Painter, R. B. & Young, B. R. Biochim. biophys. Acta 418, 146–153 (1976).

  11. 11

    Furst, A. & Haro, R. T. in Physico-Chemical Mechanics of Carcinogenesis (ed. Bergmann, E. D. & Pullman, B.), 310–320 (Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Jerusalem, 1969).

  12. 12

    Gautschi, J. R. & Kern, R. M. Expl Cell Res. 80, 15–26 (1973).

  13. 13

    Gautschi, J. R., Kern, R. M. & Painter, R. B. J. molec. Biol. 80, 393–403 (1973).

Download references

Author information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

PAINTER, R. Rapid test to detect agents that damage human DNA. Nature 265, 650–651 (1977). https://doi.org/10.1038/265650a0

Download citation

Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.