Enhanced cytotoxic and genotoxic effects of gadolinium following ELF-EMF irradiation in human lymphocytes

Drug Chem Toxicol. 2014 Oct;37(4):440-7. doi: 10.3109/01480545.2013.879662. Epub 2014 Jan 30.


There are many studies of Gd nephrotoxicity and neurotoxicity, whereas research on cyto- and genotoxicity in normal human lymphocytes is scarce. It is important to investigate the effect of extremely low-frequency electromagnetic fields (ELF-EMF) on Gd toxicity, as patients are co-exposed to Gd and ELF-EMF generated by MRI scanners. We investigated the cytotoxicity and genotoixcity of Gd and the possible enhancing effect of ELF-EMF on Gd toxicity in cultured human lymphocytes by performing a micronuclei (MN) assay, trypan blue dye exclusion, single cell gel electrophoresis, and apoptosis analyses using flow cytometry. Isolated lymphocytes were exposed to 0.2-1.2 mM of Gd only or in combination with a 60-Hz ELF-EMF of 0.8-mT field strength. Exposing human lymphocytes to Gd resulted in a concentration- and time-dependent decrease in cell viability and an increase in MN frequency, single strand DNA breakage, apoptotic cell death, and ROS production. ELF-EMF (0.8 mT) exposure also increased cell death, MN frequency, olive tail moment, and apoptosis induced by Gd treatment alone. These results suggest that Gd induces DNA damage and apoptotic cell death in human lymphocytes and that ELF-EMF enhances the cytotoxicity and genotoxicity of Gd.

Keywords: Apoptosis; comet assay; extremely low frequency-electromagnetic fields; gadolinium; human lymphocytes; micronuclei assay; reactive oxygen species.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Apoptosis / radiation effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Comet Assay
  • DNA Damage / drug effects*
  • DNA Damage / radiation effects
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Electromagnetic Fields / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Gadolinium / administration & dosage
  • Gadolinium / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • Lymphocytes / drug effects*
  • Lymphocytes / pathology
  • Lymphocytes / radiation effects
  • Micronucleus Tests
  • Mutagenicity Tests
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Time Factors


  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Gadolinium