Medical/biological study (experimental study)

Is gene activity in plant cells affected by UMTS-irradiation? A whole genome approach

Published in: Adv Appl Bioinform Chem 2008; 1: 71-83

Aim of study (acc. to author)

In search for possible targets of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields in plant cells, a whole genome approach was undertaken: cell suspension cultures of Arabidopsis thaliana were exposed for 24 h to a radiofrequency field representing typical microwave exposure in an urban environment.
Background/further details: Arabidopsis thaliana is a model plant for molecular biology.
The hybridization of a total of eight microarrays was performed (four arrays were hybridized with RNA from microwave exposed and another four arrays with RNA from microwave shielded cells). For each array, RNA extracted from one subculture was used for hybridization, resulting in four replicates for each treatment group.



Exposure Parameters
Exposure 1: 1.9 GHz
Modulation type: CW
Exposure duration: continuous for 24 h
Exposure 1
Main characteristics
Frequency 1.9 GHz
Exposure duration continuous for 24 h
Modulation type CW
Additional info control channel with 1.5 kHz modulation and 6 data channels 3 dB up and down power modulation for 45 s and 30 dB periodic attenuation during 15.3 s, resulting in a total period of 60.3 s
Exposure setup
Exposure source
Setup flasks placed on a rotary shaker which surface was covered with RF-absorbers; for control experiments flask placed inside a Faraday cage on the same rotary shaker
Measurand Value Type Method Mass Remarks
electric field strength 174 V/m average over time measured - -
electric field strength 275 V/m peak value measured - -
SAR 2 W/g peak value - cf. remarks 50 ml
SAR 0.75 W/g average over mass - cf. remarks 50 ml
power density 20 mW/cm² peak value - - -
power density 8 mW/cm² average over time - - considerably higher than the recommended value for UMTS (s. guideline 1998)
Additional parameter details
peak power transmitted for 37.5 % of the exposure time
Reference articles
  • ICNIRP (1998): Guidelines for limiting exposure to time-varying electric, magnetic, and electromagnetic fields (up to 300 GHz).
Exposed system:

Methods Endpoint/measurement parameters/methodology

Investigated material:
Time of investigation:
  • after exposure

Main outcome of study (acc. to author)

Overall, the authors conclude that radiofrequency fields used in mobile phone communication have no dramatic effect on the gene activity of plant cells in suspension culture. Only 10 genes displayed an altered transcription level after exposure and the alterations did not exceed a 2.5-fold reduction or increase in gene activity. It is unlikely that these small changes in gene activity of very few genes will have pronounced effects on the physiology of plant cells (especially if compared to other large changes described in published experiments). Besides that 3 of the affected genes are dark-inducible, the functions of the genes do not point to any known responses of plants to environmental stimuli. Additionally, cells of a suspension culture do not resemble autotrophically growing plants in every respect and their responses to radiofrequency fields may differ from those of intact plants.
Study character:

Study funded by

  • Swisscom
  • E-Plus Company, Germany
  • Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF; Federal Ministry for Education and Research), Germany
  • BMBF project FUNCRYPTA ("Funktionelle Analyse dynamischer Prozesse in cryptobiotischen Tardigraden"), Germany
  • State of Bavaria (IZKF), Germany

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