Whole-body exposures to radiofrequency-electromagnetic energy can cause DNA damage in mouse spermatozoa via an oxidative mechanism

Brendan J. Houston, Brett Nixon, Kristen E. McEwan, Jacinta H. Martin, Bruce V. King, Robert John Aitken, Geoffry N. De Iuliis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Artificially generated radiofrequency-electromagnetic energy (RF-EME) is now ubiquitous in our environment owing to the utilization of mobile phone and Wi-Fi based communication devices. While several studies have revealed that RF-EME is capable of eliciting biological stress, particularly in the context of the male reproductive system, the mechanistic basis of this biophysical interaction remains largely unresolved. To extend these studies, here we exposed unrestrained male mice to RF-EME generated via a dedicated waveguide (905 MHz, 2.2 W/kg) for 12 h per day for a period of 1, 3 or 5 weeks. The testes of exposed mice exhibited no evidence of gross histological change or elevated stress, irrespective of the RF-EME exposure regimen. By contrast, 5 weeks of RF-EME exposure adversely impacted the vitality and motility profiles of mature epididymal spermatozoa. These spermatozoa also experienced increased mitochondrial generation of reactive oxygen species after 1 week of exposure, with elevated DNA oxidation and fragmentation across all exposure periods. Notwithstanding these lesions, RF-EME exposure did not impair the fertilization competence of spermatozoa nor their ability to support early embryonic development. This study supports the utility of male germ cells as sensitive tools with which to assess the biological impacts of whole-body RF-EME exposure.

Original languageEnglish
Article number17478
Number of pages13
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019

Cite this