Toxicol Ind Health. 2018 Jan ;34(1):23-35. Epub 2017 Nov 22. PMID: 29166827
Exposure to 835 MHz radiofrequency electromagnetic field induces autophagy in hippocampus but not in brain stem of mice.
The exploding popularity of mobile phones and their close proximity to the brain when in use has raised public concern regarding possible adverse effects from exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) on the central nervous system. Numerous studies have suggested that RF-EMF emitted by mobile phones can influence neuronal functions in the brain. Currently, there is still very limited information on what biological mechanisms influence neuronal cells of the brain. In the present study, we explored whether autophagy is triggered in the hippocampus or brain stem after RF-EMF exposure. C57BL/6 mice were exposed to 835 MHz RF-EMF with specific absorption rates (SAR) of 4.0 W/kg for 12 weeks; afterward, the hippocampus and brain stem of mice were dissected and analyzed. Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) analysis demonstrated that several autophagic genes, which play key roles in autophagy regulation, were significantly upregulated only in the hippocampus and not in the brain stem. Expression levels of LC3B-II protein and p62, crucial autophagic regulatory proteins, were significantly changed only in the hippocampus. In parallel, transmission electron microscopy (TEM) revealed an increase in the number of autophagosomes and autolysosomes in the hippocampal neurons of RF-EMF-exposed mice. The present study revealed that autophagy was induced in the hippocampus, not in the brain stem, in 835 MHz RF-EMF with an SAR of 4.0 W/kg for 12 weeks. These results could suggest that among the various adaptation processes to the RF-EMF exposure environment, autophagic degradation is one possible mechanism in specific brain regions.