Motility and aging in Drosophila have proven to be highly modified under altered gravity conditions (both in space and ground simulation facilities). In order to find out how closely connected they are, five strains with altered geotactic response or survival rates were selected and exposed to an altered gravity environment of 2g. By analysing the different motile and behavioural patterns and the median survival rates, we show that altered gravity leads to changes in motility, which will have a negative impact on the flies’ survival. Previous results show a differential gene expression between sessile samples and adults and confirm that environmentally-conditioned behavioural patterns constrain flies’ gene expression and life span. Therefore, hypergravity is considered an environmental stress factor and strains that do not respond to this new environment experience an increment in motility, which is the major cause for the observed increased mortality also under microgravity conditions. The neutral-geotaxis selected strain (strain M) showed the most severe phenotype, unable to respond to variations in the gravitational field. Alternatively, the opposite phenotype was observed in positive-geotaxis and long-life selected flies (strains B and L, respectively), suggesting that these populations are less sensitive to alterations in the gravitational load. We conclude that the behavioural response has a greater contribution to aging than the modified energy consumption in altered gravity environments.
Research Containing: Altered gravity
Bdelloid rotifers are suitable model systems for space experiments. Due to their developmental pattern they appear adequate to investigate the role of the cytoskeleton during oogenesis and during early developmental stages, and to reflect the effects of disturbances in the spatial arrangement of cytoskeletal components. The effect of weightlessness on the developmental pattern of a bdelloid rotifer will be studied in the International Space Station: in preparation for it we are performing ground-based experiments on the development of rotifer embryos under either increased or decreased gravity. The model studied is Macrotrachela quadricornifera, a species of rotifers belonging to the Bdelloidea class. Samples exposed to gravity disturbance were analyzed for morphology and fitness-related parameters. Rotifers were exposed over several days to altered gravity conditions and the morphology of eggs laid during this period were investigated using a confocal laser microscope. A subset of eggs was allowed to hatch to determine newborn developmental time and age at maturity. High (up to 20g) gravity was obtained in a slow centrifuge suitable for animal cultivation over several days. To produce low (simulated 0.0001g) gravity a Random Positioning Machine equipped with a ‘rotifer bioreactor’ was used. Under all conditions the rotifer retained normal life-history traits, and did not show permanent changes in embryo morphology, regardless to the stresses to which it was exposed. Only some modification of the shape of early embryos, experiencing 20g, has been noted, but later developmental stages appeared unaffected, and normal juveniles hatched. Whether this result indicates any capacity to repair damage during embryogenesis of these Spiralia experiencing 20g is an open question. The significance of the result as well as the use of instruments to simulate gravity perturbations are discussed.
Spaceflight and simulated microgravity cause a significant reduction of key gene expression in early T-cell activation
Healthy immune function depends on precise regulation of lymphocyte activation. During the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Apollo and Shuttle eras, multiple spaceflight studies showed depressed lymphocyte activity under microgravity (mug) conditions. Scientists on the ground use two models of simulated mug (smug): 1) the rotating wall vessel (RWV) and 2) the random positioning machine (RPM), to study the effects of altered gravity on cell function before advancing research to the true mug when spaceflight opportunities become available on the International Space Station (ISS). The objective of this study is to compare the effects of true mug and smug on the expression of key early T-cell activation genes in mouse splenocytes from spaceflight and ground animals. For the first time, we compared all three conditions of microgravity spaceflight, RPM, and RWV during immune gene activation of Il2, Il2ralpha, Ifngamma, and Tagap; moreover, we confirm two new early T-cell activation genes, Iigp1 and Slamf1. Gene expression for all samples was analyzed using quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR). Our results demonstrate significantly increased gene expression in activated ground samples with suppression of mouse immune function in spaceflight, RPM, and RWV samples. These findings indicate that smug models provide an excellent test bed for scientists to develop baseline studies and augment true mug in spaceflight experiments. Ultimately, smug and spaceflight studies in lymphocytes may provide insight into novel regulatory pathways, benefiting both future astronauts and those here on earth suffering from immune disorders.