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The alkaline single-cell gel electrophoresis (SCGE) assay, called the comet assay, has been applied to detect DNA damage induced by a number of chemicals and biological factors in vivo and in vitro. The DNA damage was analysed by tail moment (TM) and tail length (TL), which were markers of DNA strand breaks in SCGE. Human, mouse and rat peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBLs) were irradiated with different doses of 60Co g-rays, e.g. 1, 2, 4, and 8 Gy at a dose rate of 1 Gy/min. A dose-dependent increase in TM (p < 0.01) and TL (p < 0.01) was obtained at all the radiation doses (1-8 Gy) in human, mouse and rat PBLs. Mouse PBLs were more sensitive than human PBLs which were in turn more sensitive than rat PBLs when the treated dosages were 1 and 2 Gy. However, human PBLs were more sensitive than mouse PBLs which were in turn more sensitive than rat PBLs when the irradiation dosages were 4 and 8 Gy. Data from all three species could be fitted to a linear-quadratic model. These results indicated that there may be inherent differences in the radio-sensitivity among PBLs of mammalian species.