Formation and repair of DNA single-strand breaks are important parameters in the assessment of DNA damage and repair occurring in live cells. The 'Fluorimetric Detection of Alkaline DNA Unwinding (FADU)' method [Birnboim HC, Jevcak JJ. Cancer Res (1981) 41:1889–1892] is a sensitive procedure to quantify DNA strand breaks, yet it is very tedious to perform.
In order (i) to render the FADU assay more convenient and robust, (ii) to increase throughput, and (iii) to reduce the number of cells needed, we have established a modified assay version that is largely automated and is based on the use of a liquid handling device. The assay is operated in a 96-well format, thus greatly increasing throughput. The number of cells required has been reduced to less than 10,000 per data point. The threshold for detection of X-ray-induced DNA strand breaks is 0.13 Gy. The total assay time required for a typical experiment to assess DNA strand break repair is 4–5 hours.