We used exposure to microwaves from a global system for mobile communication (GSM) mobile phone (915 MHz, specific absorption rate (SAR) 37 mW/kg) and power frequency magnetic field (50 Hz, 15 muT peak value) to investigate the response of lymphocytes from healthy subjects and from persons reporting hypersensitivity to electromagnetic field (EMF). The hypersensitive and healthy donors were matched by gender and age and the data were analyzed blind to treatment condition. The changes in chromatin conformation were measured with the method of anomalous viscosity time dependencies (AVTD). 53BP1 protein, which has been shown to colocalize in foci with DNA double strand breaks (DSBs), was analyzed by immunostaining in situ. Exposure at room temperature to either 915 MHz or 50 Hz resulted in significant condensation of chromatin, shown as AVTD changes, which was similar to the effect of heat shock at 41 degrees C. No significant differences in responses between normal and hypersensitive subjects were detected. Neither 915 MHz nor 50 Hz exposure induced 53BP1 foci. On the contrary, a distinct decrease in background level of 53BP1 signaling was observed upon these exposures as well as after heat shock treatments. This decrease correlated with the AVTD data and may indicate decrease in accessibility of 53BP1 to antibodies because of stress-induced chromatin condensation. Apoptosis was determined by morphological changes and by apoptotic fragmentation of DNA as analyzed by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). No apoptosis was induced by exposure to 50 Hz and 915 MHz microwaves. In conclusion, 50 Hz magnetic field and 915 MHz microwaves under specified conditions of exposure induced comparable responses in lymphocytes from healthy and hypersensitive donors that were similar but not identical to stress response induced by heat shock.