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Cryptochrome The magnetosensor with a sinister side

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Publication Title | Cryptochrome The magnetosensor with a sinister side

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Citation: Landler L, Keays DA (2018) Cryptochrome: The magnetosensor with a sinister side? PLoS Biol 16(10): e3000018. 10.1371/journal.pbio.3000018
Published: October 2, 2018
Copyright: © 2018 Landler, Keays. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Funding: This work was supported by the European Research Council [336725 to D.A.K.] and the Austrian Science Fund [Y726 to D.A.K.]. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.
Abbreviations: Ca, calcium; EMF, electromagnetic fields; FAD, flavin adenine dinucleotide; H2O2, hydrogen peroxide; HEK, human embyonic kidney; PEMF, pulsed electromagnetic field; O2−, superoxide; ROS, reactive oxidative species; TMS, transcranial magnetic stimulation.
Cryptochrome: The magnetosensor with a sinister side?
Lukas Landler, David A. KeaysID*
Research Institute of Molecular Pathology, Vienna Biocentre, Vienna, Austria
Over the last three decades, evidence has emerged that low-intensity magnetic fields can influence biological systems. It is now well established that migratory birds have the capacity to detect the Earth’s magnetic field; it has been reported that power lines are associated with childhood leukemia and that pulsed magnetic fields increase the production of reactive oxidative species (ROS) in cellular systems. Justifiably, studies in this field have been viewed with skepticism, as the underlying molecular mechanisms are unknown. In the accompanying paper, Sherrard and colleagues report that low-flux pulsed electromagnetic fields (PEMFs) result in aversive behavior in Drosophila larvae and ROS production in cell culture. They further report that these responses require the presence of cryptochrome, a putative magnetoreceptor. If correct, it is conceivable that carcinogenesis associated with power lines, PEMF-induced ROS generation, and animal magnetoreception share a com- mon mechanistic basis.
Magnetic fields can influence biological systems, a fact that has been exploited by clinicians to treat disease [1], scientists to study cellular function [2], and by migratory birds to find their way home [3]. Magnetic fields can interact with matter by (1) inducing electric currents, (2) by applying a force on magnetic material, or (3) by influencing chemical reactions [4]. Transcra- nial magnetic stimulation (TMS), for instance, exploits electromagnetic induction to activate neuronal populations in individuals suffering from Parkinson disease, depression, and motor disorders [5]. In contrast, force-based methods have used magnetic nanoparticles to geneti- cally activate specific neuronal populations, to modulate intracellular trafficking, or to guide cell migration [6–8]. These approaches rely on the application of very strong magnetic fields. In the case of TMS, approved clinical devices apply 1.5T-fields, and force-based magnetoge- netic tools rely on the application of 50–500 mT fields [6] (See Fig 1).
What has been unclear for some time is how low-intensity magnetic fields interact with organic molecules. While initially greeted with justified skepticism, there is now considerable evidence showing that this does actually happen. It has been conclusively demonstrated that an array of species on the planet are able to detect earth-strength magnetic fields, a mere 50 μT [9,10]. Within a controlled setting, investigators have been able to manipulate the orientation behavior of European robins [11], loggerhead turtles [12], zebra finches [13], moths [14], mice
PLOS Biology | October 2, 2018 1 / 7

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