AAT Bioquest

Can ethidium bromide cause developmental defects?

Posted January 14, 2022


Yes, ethidium bromide can cause developmental defects. Several in vitro tests performed on diverse cultured cell lines and embryo systems showed that EtBr can cause developmental issues in addition to chromosomal recombination, frame-shift mutations, and arrested cell division. This is because of ethidium bromide’s intercalating properties.

Ethidium bromide is a planar molecule with a ring structure that resembles the rings of DNA bases. Its flat structure allows it to easily intercalate or insert itself between adjacent base pairs in the DNA double helix. This interaction unwinds the double helix slightly and distorts the structure, weight, conformation, flexibility and charge of the DNA, resulting in developmental defects.

Additional resources

The effect of ethidium bromide on mobility of DNA fragments in agarose gel electrophoresis

Cell Structures and Organelles

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