Mechanisms of geomagnetic field influence on gene expression using influenza as a model system: basics of physical epidemiology

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2010 Mar;7(3):938-65. doi: 10.3390/ijerph7030938. Epub 2010 Mar 10.


Recent studies demonstrate distinct changes in gene expression in cells exposed to a weak magnetic field (MF). Mechanisms of this phenomenon are not understood yet. We propose that proteins of the Cryptochrome family (CRY) are "epigenetic sensors" of the MF fluctuations, i.e., magnetic field-sensitive part of the epigenetic controlling mechanism. It was shown that CRY represses activity of the major circadian transcriptional complex CLOCK/BMAL1. At the same time, function of CRY, is apparently highly responsive to weak MF because of radical pairs that periodically arise in the functionally active site of CRY and mediate the radical pair mechanism of magnetoreception. It is known that the circadian complex influences function of every organ and tissue, including modulation of both NF-kappaB- and glucocorticoids- dependent signaling pathways. Thus, MFs and solar cycles-dependent geomagnetic field fluctuations are capable of altering expression of genes related to function of NF-kappaB, hormones and other biological regulators. Notably, NF-kappaB, along with its significant role in immune response, also participates in differential regulation of influenza virus RNA synthesis. Presented data suggests that in the case of global application (example-geomagnetic field), MF-mediated regulation may have epidemiological and other consequences.

Keywords: Cryptochrome; NF-kB, influenza; Solar cycles; circadian transcription; electromagnetic fields; epidemiology; gene expression; pair radical reactions.

MeSH terms

  • Epidemiologic Studies*
  • Gene Expression*
  • Humans
  • Influenza, Human / epidemiology*
  • Influenza, Human / genetics
  • Magnetics*