NEWS
01/09/2019

Effects of Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Field Exposure on Neuronal Differentiation and Mitochondrial Function in SH-SY5Y Cells

Nicole von Niederhäusern, Angélique Ducray, Jana Zielinski, Manuel Murbach, and Meike Mevissen, Toxicology in Vitro 2019, Volume 61, 104609, online 24 July 2019; doi: 10.1016/j.tiv.2019.104609

Exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) has dramatically increased in the last decades with expanding use of mobile phones worldwide. The aim of this study was to evaluate effects of RF-EMF on neuronal differentiation and underlying signaling pathways involved in neuronal differentiation, neurodegeneration, and mitochondrial function. Differentiation of SH-SY5Y cells was performed using all-trans retinoic acid or staurosporine to obtain cholinergic and dopaminergic neurons. Exposure of SH-SY5Y cells at 935 MHz, 4 W/kg for 24 h did not alter the neuronal phenotypes quantitatively. Markers of the signaling pathways investigated, namely the mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPK), extracellular signal-regulated kinases (Erk) 1 and 2 (p-Erk1/2) and protein kinase B (Akt), glycogen synthase kinase 3 β (GSK3β) and Wnt/β-catenin were not significantly affected by RF-EMF compared to sham. RF-EMF-impaired mitochondrial respiration in cells under glucose deprivation, but glutathione levels and mitochondrial fission and fusion markers were not altered. These findings indicate that RF-EMF might lead to impairment of mitochondrial function that is manifest only at maximal respiration and additional stressors such as glucose deprivation. Further research is needed to investigate the effects of RF-EMF on mitochondrial function in detail because mitochondrial impairment is closely related to the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases.

The scientific and technical impact of the study can be summarized as:

  • Indication of an RF-EMF effect on mitochondrial respiration in cells under glucose deprivation
  • However, glutathione levels and mitochondrial fission and fusion markers were not altered by RF radiation
  • Further research is required on the effects of RF-EMF on mitochondrial function as mitochondrial impairment is closely related to the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases