Mobile phone signal exposure triggers a hormesis-like effect in Atm +/+ and Atm -/- mouse embryonic fibroblasts

Sci Rep. 2016 Nov 18;6:37423. doi: 10.1038/srep37423.


Radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMFs) have been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as possible carcinogens to humans; however, this conclusion is based on limited epidemiological findings and lacks solid support from experimental studies. In particular, there are no consistent data regarding the genotoxicity of RF-EMFs. Ataxia telangiectasia mutated (ATM) is recognised as a chief guardian of genomic stability. To address the debate on whether RF-EMFs are genotoxic, we compared the effects of 1,800 MHz RF-EMF exposure on genomic DNA in mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) with proficient (Atm+/+) or deficient (Atm-/-) ATM. In Atm+/+ MEFs, RF-EMF exposure for 1 h at an average special absorption rate of 4.0 W/kg induced significant DNA single-strand breaks (SSBs) and activated the SSB repair mechanism. This effect reduced the DNA damage to less than that of the background level after 36 hours of exposure. In the Atm-/- MEFs, the same RF-EMF exposure for 12 h induced both SSBs and double-strand breaks and activated the two repair processes, which also reduced the DNA damage to less than the control level after prolonged exposure. The observed phenomenon is similar to the hormesis of a toxic substance at a low dose. To the best of our knowledge, this study is the first to report a hormesis-like effect of an RF-EMF.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ataxia Telangiectasia Mutated Proteins / genetics
  • Cell Phone*
  • DNA Breaks / radiation effects
  • DNA Damage / radiation effects
  • Electromagnetic Fields / adverse effects*
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Fibroblasts / radiation effects
  • Gene Knockout Techniques
  • Hormesis / radiation effects
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Radio Waves / adverse effects*


  • Ataxia Telangiectasia Mutated Proteins
  • Atm protein, mouse