Article Online

Articles Online (Volume 6, Issue 1)


Genomics in Space Life Sciences

Jade Q. Clement, Hiroki Yokota

Page 1–3


A Brief Review of Bone Adaptation to Unloading

Ping Zhang, Kazunori Hamamura, Hiroki Yokota

Weight-bearing bone is constantly adapting its structure and function to mechanical environments. Loading through routine exercises stimulates bone formation and prevents bone loss, but unloading through bed rest and cast immobilization as well as exposure to weightlessness during spaceflight reduces its mass and strength. In order to elucidate the mechanism underlying unloading-driven bone adaptation, ground-based in vitro and in vivo analyses have been conducted using rotating cell culturing and hindlimb suspension. Focusing on gene expression studies in osteoblasts and hindlimb suspension studies, this minireview introduces our recent understanding on bone homeostasis under weightlessness in space. Most of the existing data indicate that unloading has the opposite effects to loading through common signaling pathways. However, a question remains as to whether any pathway unique to unloading (and not to loading) may exist.

Page 4–7


Gene Expression Profiling of Human Epidermal Keratinocytes in Simulated Microgravity and Recovery Cultures

Jade Q. Clement, Shareen M. Lacy, Bobby L. Wilson

Simulated microgravity (SMG) bioreactors and DNA microarray technology are powerful tools to identify “space genes” that play key roles in cellular response to microgravity. We applied these biotechnology tools to investigate SMG and post-SMG recovery effects on human epidermal keratinocytes by exposing cells to SMG for 3, 4, 9, and 10 d using the high aspect ratio vessel bioreactor followed by recovery culturing for 15, 50, and 60 d in normal gravity. As a result, we identified 162 differentially expressed genes, 32 of which were “center genes” that were most consistently affected in the time course experiments. Eleven of the center genes were from the integrated stress response pathways and were coordinately down-regulated. Another seven of the center genes, which are all metallothionein MT-I and MT-II isoforms, were coordinately up-regulated. In addition, HLA-G, a key gene in cellular immune response suppression, was found to be significantly up-regulated during the recovery phase. Overall, more than 80% of the differentially expressed genes from the shorter exposures (≤4 d) recovered in 15 d; for longer (≥9 d) exposures, more than 50 d were needed to recover to the impact level of shorter exposures. The data indicated that shorter SMG exposure duration would lead to quicker and more complete recovery from the microgravity effect.

Page 8–28

Review Article

Transcriptional Analysis of Normal Human Fibroblast Responses to Microgravity Stress

Yongqing Liu, Eugenia Wang

To understand the molecular mechanism(s) of how spaceflight affects cellular signaling pathways, quiescent normal human WI-38 fibroblasts were flown on the STS-93 space shuttle mission. Subsequently, RNA samples from the space-flown and ground-control cells were used to construct two cDNA libraries, which were then processed for suppression subtractive hybridization (SSH) to identify spaceflight-specific gene expression. The SSH data show that key genes related to oxidative stress, DNA repair, and fatty acid oxidation are activated by spaceflight, suggesting the induction of cellular oxidative stress. This is further substantiated by the up-regulation of neuregulin 1 and the calcium-binding protein calmodulin 2. Another obvious stress sign is that spaceflight evokes the Ras/mitogen-activated protein kinase and phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase signaling pathways, along with up-regulating several Gi-phase cell cycle traverse genes. Other genes showing up-regulation of expression are involved in protein synthesis and pro-apoptosis, as well as pro-survival. Interactome analysis of functionally related genes shows that c-Myc is the “hub” for those genes showing significant changes. Hence, our results suggest that microgravity travel may impact changes in gene expression mostly associated with cellular stress signaling, directing cells to either apoptotic death or premature senescence.

Page 29–41

Review Article

Increased Filamentous Growth of Candida albicans in Simulated Microgravity

Sara D. Altenburg, Sheila M. Nielsen-Preiss, Linda E. Hyman

Knowledge of simulated microgravity (SMG)-induced changes in the pathogenicity of microorganisms is important for success of long-term spaceflight. In a previous study using the high aspect ratio vessel bioreactor, we showed that the yeast species Saccharomyces cerevisiae underwent a significant phenotypic response when grown in modeled microgravity, which was reflected in the analysis of gene expression profiles. In this study, we establish that Candida albicans responds to SMG in a similar fashion, demonstrating that there is a conserved response among yeast to this environmental stress. We also report that the growth of C. albicans in SMG results in a morphogenic switch that is consistent with enhanced pathogenicity. Specifically, we observed an increase in filamentous forms of the organism and accompanying changes in the expression of two genes associated with the yeast-hyphal transition. The morphological response may have significant implications for astronauts' safety, as the fungal pathogen may become more virulent during spaceflight.

Page 42–50

Review Article

Diversity and Stability Study on Rice Mutants Induced in Space Environment

Wei-Hong Lu, Xin-Zhu Wang, Qi Zheng, Shuang-Hong Guan, Ping Xin, Ye-Qing Sun

To further study the characteristics of changes on the molecular level of rice mutants induced in space environment, we analyzed proteins in leaves and seeds of four rice mutants (two high-tillering and two low-tillering) in the 8th and 9th generations after a 15-day spaceflight, and compared with their ground controls by two-dimentional polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and reverse phase liquid chro-matography (RPLC). In addition, the albumin, globulin, prolamine, glutelin, and amylose of the mutant seeds were analyzed by RPLC and ultra-violet spectrometry. The results showed that the low-abundance proteins of leaves in the peak tillering stage are more likely to be induced compared with their corresponding controls. The albumin, globulin, and prolamine of the mutant seeds revealed changes when compared with their controls, and the characteristics of changes in different mutants were stably inherited in the 8th and 9th generations, suggesting that they can be used as bio markers to identity the mutants induced by spaceflight. Moreover, two proteins (SSP9111 and SSP6302) were found to be expressed with high intensity (two-fold change) in different mutants, which were both correlated with photosystem according to mass spectrometry and database searching.

Page 51–60