Apoptotic Effect of 1800 MHz Electromagnetic Radiation on NIH/3T3 Cells

Li, D.-Y.; Song, J.-D.; Liang, Z.-Y.; Oskouei, K.; Xiao, X.-Q.; Hou, W.-Z.; Li, J.-T.; Yang, Y.-S.; Wang, M.-L.; Murbach, M. Apoptotic Effect of 1800 MHz Electromagnetic Radiation on NIH/3T3 Cells. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 202017, 819.


To investigate the effect of 1800 MHz electromagnetic radiation (EMR) on apoptosis, we exposed NIH/3T3 cells at 1800 MHz with a specific absorption rate (SAR) of 2 W/kg intermittently for 12, 24, 36, and 48 h. After exposure, Cell Counting Kit-8 (CCK-8) and flow cytometry were used to detect cell viability and apoptosis; the expression of p53, a molecule with the key role in apoptosis, was measured by real-time qPCR, western blot, and immunofluorescence; and images of the structure of the mitochondria, directly reflecting apoptosis, were captured by electron microscopy. The results showed that the viability of cells in the 12, 36, and 48 h exposure groups significantly decreased compared with the sham groups; after 48 h of exposure, the percentage of late apoptotic cells in the exposure group was significantly higher. Real-time qPCR results showed that p53 mRNA in the 48 h exposure group was 1.4-fold of that in the sham group; significant differences of p53 protein fluorescence expression were observed between the exposure groups and the sham groups after 24 h and 48 h. The mitochondrial swelling and vesicular morphology were found in the electron microscopy images after 48 h exposure. These findings demonstrated 1800 MHz, SAR 2 W/kg EMR for 48 h may cause apoptosis in NIH/3T3 cells and that this apoptosis might be attributed to mitochondrial damage and upregulation of p53 expression.



The authors note that: “The potential biological effects of EMR have not been proved and current research data are insufficient to provide strong evidence of the possible health risks. The above findings indicate that there is a need for more scientific research support on the bioeffects of EMR“.

In conclusion, this study reveals an increase in the apoptosis rate, upregulation of p53, and mitochondrial damage in NIH/3T3 cells are all caused by 1800 MHz, 2 W/kg EMR. We provide new experimental evidence for the biological effects of EMR on cells and also provide a reference for studying the health effects of long-term EMR exposure.

Figure 6: The sham groups and 0 h group cells showed normal mitochondrial structure, while NIH/3T3 cells treated by EMR appeared to be swollen and had vesicular morphology. The longer the irradiation time, the more frequent the appearance of altered mitochondria morphology (e.g., vesicular morphology and swelling). This means that EMR may cause damage to the mitochondrial structure.

 Figure 6. EMR at 1800 MHz may cause damage to mitochondria in NIH/3T3 cells. Electron microscopy was used to detect mitochondrial structure.


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