Coulton, L. A., Harris, P. A., Barker, A. T. and Pockley, A. G. Effect of 50 Hz Electromagnetic Fields on the Induction of Heat-Shock Protein Gene Expression in Human Leukocytes. Radiat. Res. 161, 430–434 (2004).
Although evidence is controversial, exposure to environmental power-frequency magnetic fields is of public concern. Cells respond to some abnormal physiological conditions by producing cytoprotective heat-shock (or stress) proteins. In this study, we determined whether exposure to power-frequency magnetic fields in the range 0–100 μT rms either alone or concomitant with mild heating induced heat-shock protein gene expression in human leukocytes, and we compared this response to that induced by heat alone. Samples of human peripheral blood were simultaneously exposed to a range of magnetic-field amplitudes using a regimen that was designed to allow field effects to be distinguished from possible artifacts due to the position of the samples in the exposure system. Power-frequency magnetic-field exposure for 4 h at 37°C had no detectable effect on expression of the genes encoding HSP27, HSP70A or HSP70B, as determined using reverse transcriptase-PCR, whereas 2 h at 42°C elicited 10-, 5- and 12-fold increases, respectively, in the expression of these genes. Gene expression in cells exposed to power-frequency magnetic fields at 40°C was not increased compared to cells incubated at 40°C without field exposure. These findings and the extant literature suggest that power-frequency electromagnetic fields are not a universal stressor, in contrast to physical agents such as heat.