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Eisenia fetida earthworms were exposed to electromagnetic field (EMF) at a mobile phone frequency (900 MHz) and at field levels ranging from 10 to 120 V m-1 for a period of two hours (corresponding to specific absorption rates ranging from 0.13 to 9.33 mW kg-1). Potential effects of longer exposure (four hours), field modulation, and a recovery period of 24 h after two hours of exposure were addressed at the field level of 23 V m-1. All exposure treatments induced significant DNA modifications as assessed by a quantitative random amplified polymorphic DNA-PCR. Even after 24 h of recovery following a two hour-exposure, the number of probe hybridisation sites displayed a significant two-fold decrease as compared to untreated control earthworms, implying a loss of hybridisation sites and a persistent genotoxic effect of EMF. Expression of genes involved in the response to general stress (HSP70 encoding the 70 kDa heat shock protein, and MEKK1 involved in signal transduction), oxidative stress (CAT, encoding catalase), and chemical and immune defence (LYS, encoding lysenin, and MYD, encoding a myeloid differentiation factor) were up-regulated after exposure to 10 and modulated 23 V m-1 field levels. Western blots showing an increased quantity of HSP70 and MTCO1 proteins confirmed this stress response. HSP70 and LYS genes were up-regulated after 24 h of recovery following a two hour-exposure, meaning that the effect of EMF exposure lasted for hours.
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