Even though there are contradictory reports regarding the cellular and molecular changes induced by mobile phone emitted radiofrequency radiation (RFR), the possibility of any biological effect cannot be ruled out. In view of a widespread and extensive use of mobile phones, this study evaluates alterations in male germ cell transformation kinetics following RFR exposure and after recovery. Swiss albino mice were exposed to RFR (900 MHz) for 4 h and 8 h duration per day for 35 days. One group of animals was terminated after the exposure period, while others were kept for an additional 35 days post-exposure. RFR exposure caused depolarization of mitochondrial membranes resulting in destabilized cellular redox homeostasis. Statistically significant increases in the damage index in germ cells and sperm head defects were noted in RFR-exposed animals. Flow cytometric estimation of germ cell subtypes in mice testis revealed 2.5-fold increases in spermatogonial populations with significant decreases in spermatids. Almost fourfold reduction in spermatogonia to spermatid turnover (1C:2C) and three times reduction in primary spermatocyte to spermatid turnover (1C:4C) was found indicating arrest in the premeiotic stage of spermatogenesis, which resulted in loss of post-meiotic germ cells apparent from testis histology and low sperm count in RFR-exposed animals. Histological alterations such as sloughing of immature germ cells into the seminiferous tubule lumen, epithelium depletion and maturation arrest were also observed. However, all these changes showed recovery to varied degrees following the post-exposure period indicating that the adverse effects of RFR on mice germ cells are detrimental but reversible. To conclude, RFR exposure-induced oxidative stress causes DNA damage in germ cells, which alters cell cycle progression leading to low sperm count in mice.
Keywords: Flow cytometry; comet assay; histology; sperm defects; spermatogenesis.