Pleiotrophin (PTN) is a widespread cytokine involved in bone formation, neurite outgrowth, and angiogenesis. In skeletal muscle, PTN is upregulated during myogenesis, post-synaptic induction, and regeneration after crushing, but little is known regarding its effects on muscle function. Here, we describe the effects of PTN on the slow-twitch soleus and fast-twitch extensor digitorum longus (EDL) muscles in mice over-expressing PTN under the control of a bone promoter. The mice were maintained in normal loading or disuse condition, induced by hindlimb unloading (HU) for 14 days. Effects of exposition to near-zero gravity during a 3-months spaceflight (SF) into the Mice Drawer System are also reported. In normal loading, PTN overexpression had no effect on muscle fiber cross-sectional area, but shifted soleus muscle toward a slower phenotype, as shown by an increased number of oxidative type 1 fibers, and increased gene expression of cytochrome c oxidase subunit IV and citrate synthase. The cytokine increased soleus and EDL capillary-to-fiber ratio. PTN overexpression did not prevent soleus muscle atrophy, slow-to-fast transition, and capillary regression induced by SF and HU. Nevertheless, PTN exerted various effects on sarcolemma ion channel expression/function and resting cytosolic Ca(2+) concentration in soleus and EDL muscles, in normal loading and after HU. In conclusion, the results show very similar effects of HU and SF on mouse soleus muscle, including activation of specific gene programs. The EDL muscle is able to counterbalance this latter, probably by activating compensatory mechanisms. The numerous effects of PTN on muscle gene expression and functional parameters demonstrate the sensitivity of muscle fibers to the cytokine. Although little benefit was found in HU muscle disuse, PTN may emerge useful in various muscle diseases, because it exerts synergetic actions on muscle fibers and vessels, which could enforce oxidative metabolism and ameliorate muscle performance.
Research Containing: Animals
Formation and structure of transplantable tissue constructs generated in simulated microgravity from sertoli cells and neuron precursors
Cell transplantation therapy for Parkinson's disease (PD) has received much attention as a potential treatment protocol for this neurodegenerative condition. Although there have been promising successes with this approach, it remains problematic, especially regarding the inability to provide immediate trophic support to the newly grafted cells and the inability to prevent acute and/or long-term graft rejection by the host. To address these issues of cell graftability, we have created a novel tissue construct from isolated rat Sertoli cells (SC) and the NTerra-2 immortalized human neuron precursor cell line (NT2) utilizing NASA-developed simulated microgravity technology. The two cell types were cocultured at a 1:4 (SC/NT2) ratio in the High Aspect Rotating Vessel (HARV) biochamber for 3 days, after which a disc-shaped aggregate (1-4 mm diameter) was formed. Sertoli neuron aggregated cells (SNAC) were collected by gravity sedimentation and processed either for light and electron microscopy or for fluorescent immunocytochemistry. Intra-SNAC clusters of SC and NT2 cells were identified by anti-human mitochondrial protein (huMT–specific for NT2 cells) and cholera toxin subunit B (CTb–specific for SC). There was little evidence of cell death throughout the aggregate and the absence of central necrosis, as might be expected in such a large aggregate in vitro. Ultrastructurally, SC did not express junctional modifications with NT2 cells nor with adjacent SC as is typical of SC in vivo and, in some protocols, in vitro. NT2 cells, however, showed distinct intercellular junction-like densities with adjacent NT2 cells, often defining canaliculi-like channels between the microvillus borders of the cells. The results show that the use of simulated microgravity coculture provides a culture environment suitable for the formation of a unique and viable Sertoli-NT2 (i.e., SNAC) tissue construct displaying intra-aggregate cellular organization. The structural integration of SC with NT2 cells provides a novel transplantable tissue source, which can be tested to determine if SC will suppress rejection of the grafted NT2 cells and provide for their short- and long-term trophic support in situ in the treatment of experimental PD.
The Italian Space Agency, in line with its scientific strategies and the National Utilization Plan for the International Space Station (ISS), contracted Thales Alenia Space Italia to design and build a spaceflight payload for rodent research on ISS: the Mice Drawer System (MDS). The payload, to be integrated inside the Space Shuttle middeck during transportation and inside the Express Rack in the ISS during experiment execution, was designed to function autonomously for more than 3 months and to involve crew only for maintenance activities. In its first mission, three wild type (Wt) and three transgenic male mice over-expressing pleiotrophin under the control of a bone-specific promoter (PTN-Tg) were housed in the MDS. At the time of launch, animals were 2-months old. MDS reached the ISS on board of Shuttle Discovery Flight 17A/STS-128 on August 28(th), 2009. MDS returned to Earth on November 27(th), 2009 with Shuttle Atlantis Flight ULF3/STS-129 after 91 days, performing the longest permanence of mice in space. Unfortunately, during the MDS mission, one PTN-Tg and two Wt mice died due to health status or payload-related reasons. The remaining mice showed a normal behavior throughout the experiment and appeared in excellent health conditions at landing. During the experiment, the mice health conditions and their water and food consumption were daily checked. Upon landing mice were sacrificed, blood parameters measured and tissues dissected for subsequent analysis. To obtain as much information as possible on microgravity-induced tissue modifications, we organized a Tissue Sharing Program: 20 research groups from 6 countries participated. In order to distinguish between possible effects of the MDS housing conditions and effects due to the near-zero gravity environment, a ground replica of the flight experiment was performed at the University of Genova. Control tissues were collected also from mice maintained on Earth in standard vivarium cages.
Nitric oxide affects preimplantation embryonic development in a rotating wall vessel bioreactor simulating microgravity
Microgravity was simulated with a rotating wall vessel bioreactor (RWVB) in order to study its effect on pre-implantation embryonic development in mice. Three experimental groups were used: stationary control, rotational control and clinostat rotation. Three experiments were performed as follows. The first experiment showed that compared with the other two (control) groups, embryonic development was significantly retarded after 72 h in the clinostat rotation group. The second experiment showed that more nitric oxide (NO) was produced in the culture medium in the clinostat rotation group after 72 h (P < 0.05), and the nitric oxide synthase (NOS) activity in this group was significantly higher than in the controls (P < 0.01). In the third experiment, we studied apoptosis in the pre-implantation mouse embryos after 72 h in culture and found that Annexin-V staining was negative in the normal (stationary and rotational control) embryos, but the developmentally retarded (clinostat rotation) embryos showed a strong green fluorescence. These results indicate that microgravity induced developmental retardation and cell apoptosis in the mouse embryos. We presume that these effects are related to the higher concentration of NO in the embryos under microgravity, which have cause cytotoxic consequences. (c) 2006 International Federation for Cell Biology. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
<Go to ISI>://WOS:000244297300004
The influence of cosmic radiation and/or microgravity on insect development was studied during the 7 day German Spacelab Mission D1. Eggs of Carausius morosus of five stages differing in sensitivity to radiation and in capacity to regeneration were allowed to continue their development in the BIORACK 22 degrees C incubator, either at microgravity conditions or on the 1 g reference centrifuge. Using the Biostack concept–eggs in monolayers were sandwiched between visual track detectors–and the 1 g reference centrifuge, we were able to separate radiation effects from microgravity effects and also from combined effects of these two factors in space. After retrieval, hatching rates, growth kinetics and anomaly frequencies were determined in the different test samples. The early stages of development turned out to be highly sensitive to single hits of cosmic ray particles as well as to the temporary exposure to microgravity during their development. In some cases, the combined action of radiation and microgravity even amplified the effects exerted by the single parameters of space. Hits by single HZE particles caused early effects, such as body anomalies, as well as late effects, such as retarded growth after hatching. Microgravity exposure lead to a reduced hatching rate. A synergistic action of HZE particle hits and microgravity was established in the unexpectedly high frequency of anomal larvae. However, it cannot be excluded, that cosmic background radiation or low LET HZE particles are also causally involved in damage observed in the microgravity samples.
Fate of the grafted ovaries from female salamander Pleurodeles waltl embarked on the Cosmos 2229 flight
The flight procedure of "Experience Triton" on Cosmos 2229 made necessary to sacrifice the embarked females just after landing. In order to detect genetic abnormalities in the progency of these adult females, we have performed a surgical procedure based on the transplantation of an ovarian piece on a recipient animal. One year later, as observed after laparotomy, the grafted ovaries exhibit oogonies and some growing oocytes. In present time, out of 10 castrated and grafted adult females only one is still alive bearing a large grafted ovary. Out of 5 castrated and grafted juvenile males, three are still alive, two of them exhibit a developing grafted ovary. The grafted animals will be ready for mating within a few months. Therefore, it will soon be possible to study the progeny of animals that have been submitted to space conditions.
Microgravity induces pelvic bone loss through osteoclastic activity, osteocytic osteolysis, and osteoblastic cell cycle inhibition by CDKN1a/p21
Bone is a dynamically remodeled tissue that requires gravity-mediated mechanical stimulation for maintenance of mineral content and structure. Homeostasis in bone occurs through a balance in the activities and signaling of osteoclasts, osteoblasts, and osteocytes, as well as proliferation and differentiation of their stem cell progenitors. Microgravity and unloading are known to cause osteoclast-mediated bone resorption; however, we hypothesize that osteocytic osteolysis, and cell cycle arrest during osteogenesis may also contribute to bone loss in space. To test this possibility, we exposed 16-week-old female C57BL/6J mice (n = 8) to microgravity for 15-days on the STS-131 space shuttle mission. Analysis of the pelvis by microCT shows decreases in bone volume fraction (BV/TV) of 6.29%, and bone thickness of 11.91%. TRAP-positive osteoclast-covered trabecular bone surfaces also increased in microgravity by 170% (p = 0.004), indicating osteoclastic bone degeneration. High-resolution X-ray nanoCT studies revealed signs of lacunar osteolysis, including increases in cross-sectional area (+17%, p = 0.022), perimeter (+14%, p = 0.008), and canalicular diameter (+6%, p = 0.037). Expression of matrix metalloproteinases (MMP) 1, 3, and 10 in bone, as measured by RT-qPCR, was also up-regulated in microgravity (+12.94, +2.98 and +16.85 fold respectively, p<0.01), with MMP10 localized to osteocytes, and consistent with induction of osteocytic osteolysis. Furthermore, expression of CDKN1a/p21 in bone increased 3.31 fold (p<0.01), and was localized to osteoblasts, possibly inhibiting the cell cycle during tissue regeneration as well as conferring apoptosis resistance to these cells. Finally the apoptosis inducer Trp53 was down-regulated by -1.54 fold (p<0.01), possibly associated with the quiescent survival-promoting function of CDKN1a/p21. In conclusion, our findings identify the pelvic and femoral region of the mouse skeleton as an active site of rapid bone loss in microgravity, and indicate that this loss is not limited to osteoclastic degradation. Therefore, this study offers new evidence for microgravity-induced osteocytic osteolysis, and CDKN1a/p21-mediated osteogenic cell cycle arrest.
Preliminary results of the Biobloc experiment on the Cosmos 782 flight: effects of cosmic rays on brine shrimp eggs and tobacco seeds
The aim of the Biobloc experiment is to determine the biological effects of cosmic rays. Biobloc is a stack made up of biological layers and physical detectors (nuclear emulsions and plastic). Artemia eggs and tobacco seeds are used by French workers. Irradiation by cosmic heavy ions induces a late developmental inhibition of Artemia eggs. A light increase of emergence rate is observed for the non-hit eggs. The results are compared with those of previous space experiments. Investigations on tobacco seeds are in progress.
Altered gravity affects ventral root activity during fictive swimming and the static vestibuloocular reflex in young tadpoles (Xenopus laevis)
During early periods of life, modifications of the gravitational environment affect the development of sensory, neuronal and motor systems. The vestibular system exerts significant effects on motor networks that control eye and body posture as well as swimming. The objective of the present study was to study whether altered gravity (AG) affects vestibuloocular and spinal motor systems in a correlated manner. During the French Soyuz taxi flight Andromede to the International Space Station ISS (launch: October 21, 2001; landing: October 31, 2001) Xenopus laevis embryos were exposed for 10 days to microgravity (microg). In addition, a similar experiment with 3g-hypergravity (3g) was performed in the laboratory. At onset of AG, embryos had reached developmental stages 24 to 27. After exposure to AG, each tadpole was tested for its roll-induced vestibuloocular reflex (rVOR) and 3 hours later it was tested for the neuronal activity recorded from the ventral roots (VR) during fictive swimming. During the post-AG recording periods tadpoles had reached developmental stages 45 to 47. It was observed that microgravity affected VR activity during fictive swimming and rVOR. In particular, VR activity changes included a significant decrease of the rostrocaudal delay and a significant increase of episode duration. The rVOR-amplitude was transiently depressed. Hypergravity was less effective on the locomotor pattern; occurring effects on fictive swimming were the opposite of microg effects. As after microgravity, the rVOR was depressed after 3g-exposure. All modifications of the rVOR and VR-activity recovered to normal levels within 4 to 7 days after termination of AG. Significant correlations between the rVOR amplitude and VR activity of respective tadpoles during the recording period have been observed in both tadpoles with or without AG experience. The data are consistent with the assumptions that during this period of life which is characterized by a progressive development of vestibuloocular and vestibulospinal projections (i) microgravity retards the development of VR activity while hypergravity weakly accelerates it; (ii) that microgravity retards the rVOR development while hypergravity caused a sensitization, and that (iii) AG-induced changes of VR activity during fictive swimming have a vestibular origin.
Survey of the vestibulum, and behavior of Xenopus laevis larvae developed during a 7-days space flight
Aquatic animals have almost no body weight related proprioception for spatial orientation. Xenopus larvae, like fish, maintain their attitude in water by continuous correction with their fin(s). For these reasons a special performance of the equilibrium system compared to terrestrial animals is necessary. Evidently fish therefore have more compact (dense) otoliths; Xenopus larvae have less dense otolith (membranes) similar to land vertebrates; but their sacculus-otoliths are vertically positioned, which also may lead to a higher g-sensitivity. For plausibility reasons gravity should influence the embryonic development of gravity receptors. Yet, evaluations of photographs taken from the surface of cut deep-frozen objects by incident light show no aberration of the shape of the whole vestibulum and of the shape, density, size and position of the otolith membrane in larvae developed under near-zero g (NEXPA-BW-STATEX in D-1-Mission). The further evaluation of the "weightless-larvae" revealed a probably not yet described statolith-like formation in the dorsal wall of the vestibulum. In the weightless larvae this formation outnumbers, also qualitatively, strongly the l-g controls. An extra result is the lack of striking effects of cosmic radiation on the embryonic development of the flown Xenopus eggs. The swimming behavior of the larvae which was observed about one hour after landing of the Space Shuttle showed a typical anomaly (loop swimming), which is known from larvae developed on the clinostat or from fish flown aboard Apollo capsules.