We report that terahertz (THz) irradiation of mouse mesenchymal stem cells (mMSCs) with a single-frequency (SF) 2.52 THz laser or pulsed broadband (centered at 10 THz) source results in irradiation specific heterogenic changes in gene expression. The THz effect depends on irradiation parameters such as the duration and type of THz source, and on the degree of stem cell differentiation. Our microarray survey and RT-PCR experiments demonstrate that prolonged broadband THz irradiation drives mMSCs toward differentiation, while 2-hour irradiation (regardless of THz sources) affects genes transcriptionally active in pluripotent stem cells. The strictly controlled experimental environment indicates minimal temperature changes and the absence of any discernable response to heat shock and cellular stress genes imply a non-thermal response. Computer simulations of the core promoters of two pluripotency markers reveal association between gene upregulation and propensity for DNA breathing. We propose that THz radiation has potential for non-contact control of cellular gene expression.
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