50-Hz extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields enhance cell proliferation and DNA damage: Possible involvement of a redox mechanism

Federica I. Wolf, Angela Torsello, Beatrice Tedesco, Silvia Fasanella, Alma Boninsegna, Marcello D'Ascenzo, Claudio Grassi, Gian Battista Azzena, Achille Cittadini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


HL-60 leukemia cells, Rat-1 fibroblasts and WI-38 diploid fibroblasts were exposed for 24-72 h to 0.5-1.0-mT 50-Hz extremely low frequency electromagnetic field (ELF-EMF). This treatment induced a dose-dependent increase in the proliferation rate of all cell types, namely about 30% increase of cell proliferation after 72-h exposure to 1.0 mT. This was accompanied by increased percentage of cells in the S-phase after 12- and 48-h exposure. The ability of ELF-EMF to induce DNA damage was also investigated by measuring DNA strand breaks. A dose-dependent increase in DNA damage was observed in all cell lines, with two peaks occurring at 24 and 72 h. A similar pattern of DNA damage was observed by measuring formation of 8-OHdG adducts. The effects of ELF-EMF on cell proliferation and DNA damage were prevented by pretreatment of cells with an antioxidant like α-tocopherol, suggesting that redox reactions were involved. Accordingly, Rat-1 fibroblasts that had been exposed to ELF-EMF for 3 or 24 h exhibited a significant increase in dichlorofluorescein-detectable reactive oxygen species, which was blunted by α-tocopherol pretreatment. Cells exposed to ELF-EMF and examined as early as 6 h after treatment initiation also exhibited modifications of NFκB-related proteins (p65-p50 and IκBα), which were suggestive of increased formation of p65-p50 or p65-p65 active forms, a process usually attributed to redox reactions. These results suggest that ELF-EMF influence proliferation and DNA damage in both normal and tumor cells through the action of free radical species. This information may be of value for appraising the pathophysiologic consequences of an exposure to ELF-EMF.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)120-129
Number of pages10
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Molecular Cell Research
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 22 2005


  • α-Tocopherol
  • 8-OHdG
  • Cell cycle
  • DCF
  • IκB
  • NFκB
  • Single strand breaks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Biophysics


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