Background: Since 1999, several articles have been published on genome-wide and/or proteome-wide response after exposure to radiofrequency (RF) fields whose signal and intensities were similar to or typical of those of currently used mobile telephones. These studies were performed using powerful high-throughput screening techniques (HTSTs) of transcriptomics and/or proteomics, which allow for the simultaneous screening of the expression of thousands of genes or proteins.
Objectives: We reviewed these HTST-based studies and compared the results with currently accepted concepts about the effects of RF fields on gene expression. In this article we also discuss these last in light of the recent concept of microwave-assisted chemistry.
Discussion: To date, the results of HTST-based studies of transcriptomics and/or proteomics after exposure to RF fields relevant to human exposure are still inconclusive, as most of the positive reports are flawed by methodologic imperfections or shortcomings. In addition, when positive findings were reported, no precise response pattern could be identified in a reproducible way. In particular, results from HTST studies tend to exclude the role of a cell stressor for exposure to RF fields at nonthermal intensities. However, on the basis of lessons from microwave-assisted chemistry, we can assume that RF fields might affect heat-sensitive gene or protein expression to an extent larger than would be predicted from temperature change only. But in all likelihood, this would concern intensities higher than those relevant to usual human exposure.
Conclusions: The precise role of transcriptomics and proteomics in the screening of bioeffects from exposure to RF fields from mobile phones is still uncertain in view of the lack of positively identified phenotypic change and the lack of theoretical, as well as experimental, arguments for specific gene and/or protein response patterns after this kind of exposure.
Keywords: gene expression; genomics; microwaves; mobile phones; protein expression; proteomics; radiofrequency fields.