Increasing evidence indicates that oxidative stress may be involved in the adverse effects of radiofrequency (RF) radiation on the brain. Because mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) defects are closely associated with various nervous system diseases and mtDNA is particularly susceptible to oxidative stress, the purpose of this study was to determine whether radiofrequency radiation can cause oxidative damage to mtDNA. In this study, we exposed primary cultured cortical neurons to pulsed RF electromagnetic fields at a frequency of 1800 MHz modulated by 217 Hz at an average special absorption rate (SAR) of 2 W/kg. At 24 h after exposure, we found that RF radiation induced a significant increase in the levels of 8-hydroxyguanine (8-OHdG), a common biomarker of DNA oxidative damage, in the mitochondria of neurons. Concomitant with this finding, the copy number of mtDNA and the levels of mitochondrial RNA (mtRNA) transcripts showed an obvious reduction after RF exposure. Each of these mtDNA disturbances could be reversed by pretreatment with melatonin, which is known to be an efficient antioxidant in the brain. Together, these results suggested that 1800 MHz RF radiation could cause oxidative damage to mtDNA in primary cultured neurons. Oxidative damage to mtDNA may account for the neurotoxicity of RF radiation in the brain.
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