Mitochondrial hyperpolarization and cytochrome-c release in microwave-exposed MCF-7 cells

Gen Physiol Biophys. 2017 Apr;36(2):211-218. doi: 10.4149/gpb_2016021. Epub 2016 Sep 12.


This study examines the effects of a 2.1-GHz WCDMA-modulated microwave (MW) radiation on apoptotic activity and mitochondrial membrane potential (ΔΨm) in MCF-7 cells. The cells were exposed to the MW at a specific absorption rate (SAR) of 0.528 W/kg for 4 or 24 h. The antiproliferative effect of MW exposure was determined by the MTT test. Cytochrome-c and p53 levels were determined by an ELISA method. The relative ΔΨm was analysed by JC-1 staining using flow cytometer. Apoptotic rate of the cells was measured by Annexin-V-FITC staining. All assays were performed after certain time of incubations (15 min-4 h) following MW exposure. MW-exposed cells showed a significant decrease in viability when compared to unexposed cells. A significantly larger decrease was observed after longer exposure. The percentage of apoptotic cells, amount of cytochrome-c, and relative ΔΨm were significantly higher in MW-exposed cells. The percent of apoptotic cells and relative ΔΨm in 24 h MW-exposed group was significantly higher than those in 4 h MW-exposed group. However, no significant change was observed in p53 levels. These results demonstrated that exposure to 2.1-GHz WCDMA-modulated MW radiation caused hyperpolarization of mitochondria that in turn induced apoptosis in MCF-7 cells.

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Apoptosis / radiation effects*
  • Cytochromes c / biosynthesis*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic / physiology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic / radiation effects*
  • Humans
  • MCF-7 Cells
  • Membrane Potential, Mitochondrial / physiology*
  • Membrane Potential, Mitochondrial / radiation effects
  • Microwaves*
  • Mitochondria / physiology*
  • Mitochondria / radiation effects
  • Radiation Dosage


  • Cytochromes c