Adult human dermal fibroblasts exposed to nanosecond electrical pulses exhibit genetic biomarkers of mechanical stress

Caleb C. Roth, Randolph D. Glickman, Stacey L. Martens, Ibtissam Echchgadda, Hope T. Beier, Ronald A. Barnes, Bennett L. Ibey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background Exposure of cells to very short (<1 µs) electric pulses in the megavolt/meter range have been shown to cause a multitude of effects, both physical and molecular in nature. Physically, nanosecond electrical pulses (nsEP) can cause disruption of the plasma membrane, cellular swelling, shrinking and blebbing. Molecularly, nsEP have been shown to activate signaling pathways, produce oxidative stress, stimulate hormone secretion and induce both apoptotic and necrotic death. We hypothesize that studying the genetic response of primary human dermal fibroblasts exposed to nsEP, will gain insight into the molecular mechanism(s) either activated directly by nsEP, or indirectly through electrophysiology interactions. Methods Microarray analysis in conjunction with quantitative real time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) was used to screen and validate genes selectively upregulated in response to nsEP exposure. Results Expression profiles of 486 genes were found to be significantly changed by nsEP exposure. 50% of the top 20 responding genes coded for proteins located in two distinct cellular locations, the plasma membrane and the nucleus. Further analysis of five of the top 20 upregulated genes indicated that the HDFa cells’ response to nsEP exposure included many elements of a mechanical stress response. Conclusions We found that several genes, some of which are mechanosensitive, were selectively upregulated due to nsEP exposure. This genetic response appears to be a primary response to the stimuli and not a secondary response to cellular swelling. General significance This work provides strong evidence that cells exposed to nsEP interpret the insult as a mechanical stress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)302-309
Number of pages8
JournalBiochemistry and Biophysics Reports
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017


  • Adult human dermal fibroblasts
  • FOS
  • Mechanical stress
  • Microarray
  • Nanosecond electrical pulse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry


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