Effects of Fifty-Hertz Electromagnetic Fields on Granulocytic Differentiation of ATRA-Treated Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia NB4 Cells

Alfredo Errico Provenzano, Stefano Amatori, Maria Gemma Nasoni, Giuseppe Persico, Sergio Russo, Anna Rita Mastrogiacomo, Alessandro Gambarara, Mirco Fanelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background/Aims: Life on Earth is constantly exposed to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and the effects induced by EMFs on biological systems have been extensively studied producing different and sometimes contradictory results. Extremely low-frequency electromagnetic fields (ELF-EMFs) have shown to play a role in regulating cell proliferation and differentiation, although how EMFs influence these processes remains unclear. Human acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) cells are characterized by the arrest of differentiation at the promyelocytic stage due to epigenetic perturbations induced by PML/RARα fusion protein (Promyelocytic Leukemia protein - PML/Retinoic Acid Receptor alpha - RARα). Therapeutic administration of all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) re-establishes the leukemogenic mechanism re-inducing the normal differentiation processes. Methods: We studied the effects of ELF-EMFs (50 Hz, 2 mT) on the ATRA-mediated granulocytic differentiation process of APL NB4 cells (a cell line established from the bone marrow of a patient affected by the acute promyelocytic leukemia) by monitoring cellular proliferation and morphology, nitrob lue tetrazolium (NBT) reduction and the expression of differentiation surface markers. Finally, we investigated mechanisms focusing on reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation and related molecular pathways. Results: ELF-EMF exposure decreases cellular proliferation potential and helps ATRA-treated NB4 cells to mature. Furthermore, the analysis of ROS production and the consequent extracellular signal regulated kinases (ERK1/2) phosphorylation suggest that a changed intracellular oxidative balance may influence the biological effects of ELF-EMFs. Conclusions: These results indicate that the exposure to ELF-EMF promotes ATRA-induced granulocytic differentiation of APL cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)389-400
Number of pages12
JournalCellular Physiology and Biochemistry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2018


  • Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia (APL)
  • ERK1/2
  • Granulocytic differentiation
  • Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology


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