Activation of autophagy at cerebral cortex and apoptosis at brainstem are differential responses to 835 MHz RF-EMF exposure

Korean J Physiol Pharmacol. 2017 Mar;21(2):179-188. doi: 10.4196/kjpp.2017.21.2.179. Epub 2017 Feb 21.


With the explosive increase in exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) emitted by mobile phones, public concerns have grown over the last few decades with regard to the potential effects of EMF exposure on the nervous system in the brain. Many researchers have suggested that RF-EMFs can effect diverse neuronal alterations in the brain, thereby affecting neuronal functions as well as behavior. Previously, we showed that long-term exposure to 835 MHz RF-EMF induces autophagy in the mice brain. In this study, we explore whether short-term exposure to RF-EMF leads to the autophagy pathway in the cerebral cortex and brainstem at 835 MHz with a specific absorption rate (SAR) of 4.0 W/kg for 4 weeks. Increased levels of autophagy genes and proteins such as LC3B-II and Beclin1 were demonstrated and the accumulation of autophagosomes and autolysosomes was observed in cortical neurons whereas apoptosis pathways were up-regulated in the brainstem but not in the cortex following 4 weeks of RF exposure. Taken together, the present study indicates that monthly exposure to RF-EMF induces autophagy in the cerebral cortex and suggests that autophagic degradation in cortical neurons against a stress of 835 MHz RF during 4 weeks could correspond to adaptation to the RF stress environment. However, activation of apoptosis rather than autophagy in the brainstem is suggesting the differential responses to the RF-EMF stresses in the brain system.

Keywords: Apoptosis; Autophagy; Brainstem; Cerebral cortex; RF-EMF.