• electromagnetic fields;
  • microwaves;
  • gene expression;
  • signal transduction;
  • protein kinase C;
  • c-kit


We used a resonant cavity which delivered a continuous wave exposure at 864.3MHz at an average specific absorption rate (SAR) of 7W/kg to determine non-thermal biological effects of microwave exposure. A human mast cell line, HMC-1, was used as the biological target. Cells were given three exposures each of 20-min duration daily for 7 days. The temperature of the cell culture medium during the exposure fell to 26.5°C. Effects were seen on localization of protein kinase C, and expression of three genes of 588 screened. The affected genes included the proto-oncogene c-kit, the transcription factor Nucleoside diphosphate kinase B and the apoptosis-associated gene DAD-1. Stress response genes were variably upregulated. No significant effect on morphology or on F-actin distribution was detected. We conclude that low-power microwave exposure may act on HMC-1 cells by altering gene expression via a mechanism involving activation of protein kinase C, and at temperatures well below those known to induce a heat shock response.