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Bioelectromagnetics. 2012 Sep;33(6):488-96. doi: 10.1002/bem.21709. Epub 2012 Feb 13.

Genome-wide transcription analysis of Escherichia coli in response to extremely low-frequency magnetic fields.

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Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich), Institute of Microbiology, Zurich, Switzerland.


The widespread use of electricity raises the question of whether or not 50 Hz (power line frequency in Europe) magnetic fields (MFs) affect organisms. We investigated the transcription of Escherichia coli K-12 MG1655 in response to extremely low-frequency (ELF) MFs. Fields generated by three signal types (sinusoidal continuous, sinusoidal intermittent, and power line intermittent; all at 50 Hz, 1 mT) were applied and gene expression was monitored at the transcript level using an Affymetrix whole-genome microarray. Bacterial cells were grown continuously in a chemostat (dilution rate D = 0.4 h(-1)) fed with glucose-limited minimal medium and exposed to 50 Hz MFs with a homogenous flux density of 1 mT. For all three types of MFs investigated, neither bacterial growth (determined using optical density) nor culturable counts were affected. Likewise, no statistically significant change (fold-change > 2, P ≤ 0.01) in the expression of 4,358 genes and 714 intergenic regions represented on the gene chip was detected after MF exposure for 2.5 h (1.4 generations) or 15 h (8.7 generations). Moreover, short-term exposure (8 min) to the sinusoidal continuous and power line intermittent signal neither affected bacterial growth nor showed evidence for reliable changes in transcription. In conclusion, our experiments did not indicate that the different tested MFs (50 Hz, 1 mT) affected the transcription of E. coli.

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