We present here a morphological, cytochemical and biochemical study of the macrophagic differentiation of human pro-monocytic U937 cells exposed to moderate intensity (6 mT) static magnetic fields (MF). It was found that the following substances induced differentiation in U937 cells to a progressively lower degree: 50 ng/mL 12-0-tetradecanoyl-13-phorbol acetate (TPA), low concentration of glutamine (0,05 mM/L), 10% dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) and 100 mM/L Zn++. Differentiated U937 cells shift from a round shape to a macrophage-like morphology, from suspension to adhesion growth and acquire phagocytotic activity, the cytoskeleton adapting accordingly. Exposure to static MF at 6 mT of intensity decreases the degree of differentiation for all differentiating molecules with a consequent fall in cell adhesion and increased polarization of pseudopodia and cytoplasmic protrusions. Differentiation alone, or in combination with exposure to static MFs, affects the distribution and quantity of cell surface sugar residues, the surface expression of markers of macrophage differentiation, and phagocytotic capability. Our results indicate that moderate-intensity static MFs exert a considerable effect on the process of macrophage differentiation of pro-monocytic U937 cells and suggest the need for further studies to investigate the in vivo possible harmful consequences of this.
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