Sediments frequently cause damage to biota due to the accumulation of toxic compounds and the bioavailability of sediment-bound contaminants. Damage can be assessed using biomarkers, such as the degree of genotoxic impact following in vivo exposure to pollutants. Genotoxic damage, expressed as single-strand DNA breaks, was measured in cells isolated from haemolymph, gill and digestive gland from the clam Tapes semidecussatus, using the single cell gel electrophoresis (Comet assay). Clams were exposed for three weeks to sediment samples collected from a polluted site and a 'clean' reference site.
The level of DNA damage was assessed using an image analysis package and expressed as Tail Moment. Throughout the study, significant differences in DNA damage were recorded for each tissue type between clams exposed to the two sediment samples. We conclude that the Comet assay is a useful tool for the detection of DNA damage in clams chronically exposed to polluted sediments. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.