High magnetic fields are becoming increasingly prevalent components of non-invasive, biomedical imaging tools (such as MRI), thus, an understanding of the molecular impacts associated with these field strengths in biological systems is of central importance. The biological impact of magnetic field strengths up to 30 Tesla were investigated in this study through the use of transgenic Arabidopsis plants engineered with a stress response gene consisting of the alcohol dehydrogenase (Adh) gene promoter driving the β-glucuronidase (GUS) gene reporter.
Magnetic field induced Adh/GUS activity was evaluated with histochemical staining to assess tissue specific expression and distribution, and with quantitative, spectrofluometric assays to measure degree of activation. The evaluation of global changes in the Arabidopsis genome in response to exposure to high magnetic fields was facilitated with Affymetrix Gene Chip microarrays. Quantitative analyses of gene expression were performed with quantitative real-time polymerase-chain-reaction (qRT-PCR).
Field strengths in excess of about 15 Tesla induce expression of the Adh/GUS transgene in the roots and leaves. From the microarray analyses that surveyed 8000 genes, 114 genes were differentially expressed to a degree greater than 2.5 fold over the control. These results were quantitatively corroborated by qRT-PCR examination of 4 of the 114 genes.
The data suggest that magnetic fields in excess of 15 Tesla have far-reaching effect on the genome. The wide-spread induction of stress-related genes and transcription factors, and a depression of genes associated with cell wall metabolism, are prominent examples. The roles of magnetic field orientation of macromolecules and magnetophoretic effects are discussed as possible factors that contribute to the mounting of this response.