Fifty-Hertz Magnetic Field Affects the Epigenetic Modulation of the miR-34b/c in Neuronal Cells

Mol Neurobiol. 2018 Jul;55(7):5698-5714. doi: 10.1007/s12035-017-0791-0. Epub 2017 Oct 16.


The exposure to extremely low-frequency magnetic fields (ELF-MFs) has been associated to increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases, although the underlying molecular mechanisms are still undefined. Since epigenetic modulation has been recently encountered among the key events leading to neuronal degeneration, we here aimed at assessing if the control of gene expression mediated by miRNAs, namely miRs-34, has any roles in driving neuronal cell response to 50-Hz (1 mT) magnetic field in vitro. We demonstrate that ELF-MFs drive an early reduction of the expression level of miR-34b and miR-34c in SH-SY5Y human neuroblastoma cells, as well as in mouse primary cortical neurons, by affecting the transcription of the common pri-miR-34. This modulation is not p53 dependent, but attributable to the hyper-methylation of the CpG island mapping within the miR-34b/c promoter. Incubation with N-acetyl-l-cysteine or glutathione ethyl-ester fails to restore miR-34b/c expression, suggesting that miRs-34 are not responsive to ELF-MF-induced oxidative stress. By contrast, we show that miRs-34 control reactive oxygen species production and affect mitochondrial oxidative stress triggered by ELF-MFs, likely by modulating mitochondria-related miR-34 targets identified by in silico analysis. We finally demonstrate that ELF-MFs alter the expression of the α-synuclein, which is specifically stimulated upon ELF-MFs exposure via both direct miR-34 targeting and oxidative stress. Altogether, our data highlight the potential of the ELF-MFs to tune redox homeostasis and epigenetic control of gene expression in vitro and shed light on the possible mechanism(s) producing detrimental effects and predisposing neurons to degeneration.

Keywords: Epigenetics; Extremely low-frequency magnetic field (ELF-MF); Neurodegeneration; microRNA-34.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology
  • DNA Methylation / genetics
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Fields*
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxidative Stress / genetics
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / genetics
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism
  • alpha-Synuclein / metabolism


  • MIRN34 microRNA, human
  • MIRN34a microRNA, mouse
  • MicroRNAs
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • alpha-Synuclein