We have evaluated the extent of DNA damage induced by direct and indirect mutagens by cellular and acellular comet assays in two plant systems, Nicotiana tabacum (wild type tobacco) and Allium cepa (common onion). The objectives of this study were: (1) to generate dose-response curves for DNA migration values from root and shoot nuclei of A. cepa and N. tabacum treated with the direct acting mutagens, ethyl methanesulphonate (EMS), hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and the indirect acting mutagen, cadmium chloride (CdCl2), (2) to assess the differential response between isolated nuclei and nuclei of root and shoot and of both plants and (3) to examine the differences of sensitivity between direct and indirect acting mutagens by cellular and acellular comet assays. Similar sensitivities were evident in both plant systems to direct and indirect acting mutagens. The combination of cellular and acellular comet assays provided valuable insight to the mode of action of the genotoxicants used. The data obtained demonstrated the estimable capacity of the two plant systems to evaluate genotoxicity under different stress conditions and suggests Allium is a more desirable test system for rapid monitoring of genotoxicity. © 2010 Elsevier Inc.