As of today, only acute effects of RF fields have been confirmed to represent a potential health hazard and they are attributed to non-specific heating (≥ 1 °C) under high-level exposure. Yet, the possibility that environmental RF impact living matter in the absence of temperature elevation needs further investigation. Since HSF1 is both a thermosensor and the master regulator of heat-shock stress response in eukaryotes, it remains to assess HSF1 activation in live cells under exposure to low-level RF signals. We thus measured basal, temperature-induced, and chemically induced HSF1 trimerization, a mandatory step on the cascade of HSF1 activation, under RF exposure to continuous wave (CW), Global System for Mobile (GSM), and Wi-Fi-modulated 1800 MHz signals, using a bioluminescence resonance energy transfer technique (BRET) probe. Our results show that, as expected, HSF1 is heat-activated by acute exposure of transiently transfected HEK293T cells to a CW RF field at a specific absorption rate of 24 W/kg for 30 min. However, we found no evidence of HSF1 activation under the same RF exposure condition when the cell culture medium temperature was fixed. We also found no experimental evidence that, at a fixed temperature, chronic RF exposure for 24 h at a SAR of 1.5 and 6 W/kg altered the potency or the maximal capability of the proteasome inhibitor MG132 to activate HSF1, whatever signal used. We only found that RF exposure to CW signals (1.5 and 6 W/kg) and GSM signals (1.5 W/kg) for 24 h marginally decreased basal HSF1 activity.
Keywords: Bioluminescence resonance energy transfer; HSF1; Radiofrequency; Trimerization.