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Biomed Environ Sci. 2015 Jan;28(1):13-24. doi: 10.3967/bes2015.002.

Microwave exposure impairs synaptic plasticity in the rat hippocampus and PC12 cells through over-activation of the NMDA receptor signaling pathway.

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Beijing Institute of Radiation Medicine, Beijing 100850, China.



The aim of this study is to investigate whether microwave exposure would affect the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) signaling pathway to establish whether this plays a role in synaptic plasticity impairment.


48 male Wistar rats were exposed to 30 mW/cm2 microwave for 10 min every other day for three times. Hippocampal structure was observed through H&E staining and transmission electron microscope. PC12 cells were exposed to 30 mW/cm2 microwave for 5 min and the synapse morphology was visualized with scanning electron microscope and atomic force microscope. The release of amino acid neurotransmitters and calcium influx were detected. The expressions of several key NMDAR signaling molecules were evaluated.


Microwave exposure caused injury in rat hippocampal structure and PC12 cells, especially the structure and quantity of synapses. The ratio of glutamic acid and gamma-aminobutyric acid neurotransmitters was increased and the intracellular calcium level was elevated in PC12 cells. A significant change in NMDAR subunits (NR1, NR2A, and NR2B) and related signaling molecules (Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent kinase II gamma and phosphorylated cAMP-response element binding protein) were examined.


30 mW/cm2 microwave exposure resulted in alterations of synaptic structure, amino acid neurotransmitter release and calcium influx. NMDAR signaling molecules were closely associated with impaired synaptic plasticity.


Microwave; NMDA receptor signaling pathway; PC12; Rat hippocampus; Synaptic plasticity

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