Mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells were used as an experimental model to study the effects of electromagnetic fields (EMF). ES-derived nestin-positive neural progenitor cells were exposed to extremely low frequency EMF simulating power line magnetic fields at 50 Hz (ELF-EMF) and to radiofrequency EMF simulating the Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) signals at 1.71 GHz (RF-EMF). Following EMF exposure, cells were analyzed for transcript levels of cell cycle regulatory, apoptosis-related, and neural-specific genes and proteins; changes in proliferation; apoptosis; and cytogenetic effects. Quantitative RT-PCR analysis revealed that ELF-EMF exposure to ES-derived neural cells significantly affected transcript levels of the apoptosis-related bcl-2, bax, and cell cycle regulatory "growth arrest DNA damage inducible" GADD45 genes, whereas mRNA levels of neural-specific genes were not affected. RF-EMF exposure of neural progenitor cells resulted in down-regulation of neural-specific Nurr1 and in up-regulation of bax and GADD45 mRNA levels. Short-term RF-EMF exposure for 6 h, but not for 48 h, resulted in a low and transient increase of DNA double-strand breaks. No effects of ELF- and RF-EMF on mitochondrial function, nuclear apoptosis, cell proliferation, and chromosomal alterations were observed. We may conclude that EMF exposure of ES-derived neural progenitor cells transiently affects the transcript level of genes related to apoptosis and cell cycle control. However, these responses are not associated with detectable changes of cell physiology, suggesting compensatory mechanisms at the translational and posttranslational level.