Extremely low frequency electromagnetic field exposure promotes differentiation of pituitary corticotrope-derived AtT20 D16V cells



The pituitary corticotrope-derived AtT20 D16V cell line responds to nerve growth factor (NGF) by extending neurite-like processes and differentiating into neurosecretory-like cells. The aim of this work is the study of the effect of extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields (ELF-EMF) at a frequency of 50 Hz on these differentiation activities. To establish whether exposure to the field could influence the molecular biology of the cells, they were exposed to a magnetic flux density of 2 milli-Tesla (mT). Intracellular calcium ([Ca2+]i ) and intracellular pH (pHi) were monitored in single exposed AtT20 D16V cells using fluorophores Indo-1 and SNARF for [Ca2+]i and pHi, respectively. Single-cell fluorescence microscopy showed a statistically significant increase in [Ca2+]i followed by a drop in pHi in exposed cells. Both scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and transmission microscopy of exposed AtT20 D16V cells show morphological changes in plasma membrane compared to non-exposed cells; this modification was accompanied by a rearrangement in actin filament distribution and the emergence of properties typical of peptidergic neuronal cells—the appearance of secretory-like granules in the cytosol and the increase of synaptophysin in synaptic vesicles, changes typical of neurosecretory-like cells. Using a monoclonal antibody toward the neurofilament protein NF-200 gave additional evidence that exposed cells were in an early stage of differentiation compared to control. Pre-treatment with 0.3 µM nifedipine, which specifically blocks L-type Ca2+ channels, prevented NF-200 expression in AtT20 D16V exposed cells. The above findings demonstrate that exposure to 50 Hz ELF-EMF is responsible for the premature differentiation in AtT20 D 16 V cells. Bioelectromagnetics 27:641–651, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.