Complex effects of long-term 50 Hz magnetic field exposure in vivo on immune functions in female sprague-dawley rats depend on duration of exposure
In previous studies we have demonstrated that 50 Hz, 100 microT magnetic field (MF) exposure of female Sprague-Dawley rats for 13 weeks significantly enhances the development and growth of mammary tumors in a breast cancer model. The present study was designed to test the hypothesis that, at least in part, the tumor (co)promoting effect of MF exposure is due to MF effects on the immune surveillance system, which is of critical importance in protecting an organism against the development and growth of tumors. For this purpose, female Sprague-Dawley rats of the same age as in the mammary tumor experiments were continuously exposed for different periods (2, 4, 8, and 13 weeks) to a 50 Hz, 100 microT MF. Control groups were sham-exposed simultaneously. Following the different exposure periods, splenic lymphocytes were cultured and the proliferative responses to the T-cell-selective mitogen concanavalin A (Con A) and the B-cell-selective pokeweed mitogen (PWM) were determined. Furthermore, the production of interleukin-1 (IL-1) was determined in the splenocyte cultures. The mitogenic responsiveness of T cells was markedly enhanced after 2 weeks of MF exposure, suggesting a co-mitogenic action of MF. A significant, but less marked increase in T-cell mitogenesis was seen after 4 weeks of MF exposure, whereas no difference from sham controls was determined after 8 weeks, indicating adaptation or tolerance to this effect of MF exposure. Following 13 weeks of MF exposure, a significant decrease in the mitogenic responsiveness of lymphocytes to Con A was obtained. This triphasic alteration in T-cell function (i.e., activation, tolerance, and suppression) during prolonged MF exposure resembles alterations observed during chronic administration of mild stressors, substantiating the hypothesis that cells respond to MF in the same way as they do to other environmental stresses. In contrast to T cells, the mitogenic responsiveness of B cells and IL-1 production of PWM-stimulated cells were not altered during MF exposure. The data demonstrate that MF in vivo exposure of female rats induces complex effects on the mitogenic responsiveness of T cells, which may lead to impaired immune surveillance after long-term exposure.