The use of body-worn wireless devices with different communication protocols and rapidly changing exposure scenarios is still multiplying and the need to identify possible health effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic field (RF-EMF) exposure with extremely low-frequency (ELF) modulation envelops. In this study, effects of ELF-modulated 935 MHz RF-EMF on apoptosis, autophagy, oxidative stress and electron exchange in N9 microglial and SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cells were investigated.
Cells were exposed at 4 W/kg or sham-exposed for 2 and 24 h. RF-EMF exposure of both cell types did not alter apoptosis, the number of living cells nor the apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF), irrespective of the exposure duration. RF-EMF exposure for 24, but not for 2 h, increased protein levels of the autophagy marker ATG5, whereas LC3B-I and II and pERK were not altered in both cell types and exposure times investigated. A transient increase in glutathione (GSH), but not hydrogen peroxide and cytochrome c oxidase was found only in SH-SY5Y cells, indicating that short-time RF-EMF at SAR levels accepted by today’s safety guidelines might cause autophagy and oxidative stress with the effect being dependent on cell type and exposure duration.
Further studies are needed to evaluate possible underlying mechanisms involved in pulse-modulated RF-EMF exposure.