Electromagnetic field effects on cells of the immune system: the role of calcium signaling

FASEB J. 1992 Oct;6(13):3177-85. doi: 10.1096/fasebj.6.13.1397839.


During the past decade considerable evidence has accumulated demonstrating that nonthermal exposures of cells of the immune system to extremely low-frequency (ELF) electromagnetic fields (< 300 Hz) can elicit cellular changes that might be relevant to in vivo immune activity. A similar responsiveness to nonionizing electromagnetic energy in this frequency range has also been documented for tissues of the neuroendocrine and musculoskeletal system. However, knowledge about the underlying biological mechanisms by which such fields can induce cellular changes is still very limited. It is generally believed that the cell membrane and Ca(2+)-regulated activity is involved in bioactive ELF field coupling to living systems. This article begins with a short review of the current state of knowledge concerning the effects of nonthermal levels of ELF electromagnetic fields on the biochemistry and activity of immune cells and then closely examines new results that suggest a role for Ca2+ in the induction of these cellular field effects. Based on these findings it is proposed that membrane-mediated Ca2+ signaling processes are involved in the mediation of field effects on the immune system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / physiology*
  • Electromagnetic Fields*
  • Humans
  • Immune System / metabolism
  • Immune System / radiation effects*
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Calcium