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.
Research Containing: Animals
The Biorisk experiment: 13-month exposure of resting forms of organism on the outer side of the Russian Segment of the International Space Station: preliminary results
Abstract and Paper are presented in Russian
Effect of simulated weightlessness on osteoprogenitor cell number and proliferation in young and adult rats
Experiments with rats flown in space or hind limb unloaded (HU) indicate that bone loss in both conditions is associated with a decrease in bone volume and osteoblast surface in cancellous and cortical bone. We hypothesize that the decrease in osteoblastic bone formation and osteoblast surface is related to a decrease in the number of osteoprogenitors and/or decreased proliferation of their progeny. We tested this hypothesis by evaluating the effect of 14 days of HU on the number of osteoprogenitors (osteoblast colony forming units; CFU-O), fibroblastic colony forming units (CFU-F), and alkaline phosphatase-positive CFU (CFU-AP) in cell populations derived from the proximal femur (unloaded) and the proximal humerus (normally loaded) in 6-week-old and 6-month-old rats. To confirm the effect of unloading on bone volume and structure, static histomorphometric parameters were measured in the proximal tibial metaphysis. Effects of HU on proliferation of osteoprogenitors were evaluated by measuring the size of CFU-O. HU did not affect the total number of progenitors (CFU-F) in young or adult rats in any of the cell populations. In femoral populations of young rats, HU decreased CFU-O by 71.0% and mean colony size was reduced by 20%. HU decreased CFU-AP by 31.3%. As expected, no changes in CFU-O or CFU-AP were seen in cell populations from the humerus. In femoral cell populations of adult rats, HU decreased CFU-O and CFU-AP by 16.6% and 36.6%, respectively. Again, no effects were seen in cell populations from the humerus. In 6-week-old rats, there was a greater decrease in bone volume, osteoblast number, and osteoblast surface in the proximal tibial metaphysis than that observed in adult rats. Both trabecular thickness and trabecular number were decreased in young rats but remained unaffected in adults. Neither osteoclast number nor surface was affected by unloading. Our results show that the HU-induced decrease in the number of osteoprogenitors observed in vitro parallels the effects of HU on bone volume and osteoblast number in young and old rats in vivo, suggesting that the two may be interdependent. HU also reduced CFU-O colony size in femoral populations indicating a diminished proliferative capacity of osteoblastic colonies.
Microgravity and hypergravity effects on fertilization of the salamander Pleurodeles waltl (urodele amphibian)
Effects of microgravity (microG) on fertilization were studied in the urodele amphibian Pleurodeles waltl on board the MIR space station. Genetic and cytomorphologic analyses ruled out parthenogenesis or gynogenesis and proved that fertilization did occur in microG. Actual fertilization was demonstrated by the analysis of the distribution of peptidase-1 genes, a polymorphic sex-linked enzyme, in progenies obtained in microG. Further evidence of fertilization was provided by the presence of spermatozoa in the perivitelline space and in the fertilization layer of the microG eggs and by the presence of a female pronucleus and male pronuclei in the egg cytoplasm. Experiments in microG and in 1.4G, 2G, and 3G hypergravity showed for the first time that, compared to eggs in 1G, several characteristics of the fertilization process including the cortical reaction and the microvillus transformations were altered depending on the gravitational force applied to the eggs. Microvillus elevation, the most evident feature, was reduced on microG-eggs and amplified on eggs submitted to 2G and 3G. No lethal consequences of these alterations on the early development of microG-eggs were observed.
Reinterpretation of mouse thyroid changes under space conditions: the contribution of confinement to damage
During space missions, astronauts work in a state of separation from their daily social environment and in physical confinement. It has been shown that confinement influences mood and brain cortical activity, but no data has been obtained with regard to its effect on the thyroid gland, the structure and function of which change during spaceflights. Here, we report the results of a study on the effects of confinement on mouse thyroid, which was implemented with the Mice Drawer System Facility maintained on the ground, a system used for spaceflight experiments. The results show that confinement changes the microscopic structure of the thyroid gland and that it exhibits symptoms similar to those that result from physiological and/or pathological hyperfunction. What is left unchanged, however, is the sphingomyelinase-thyrotropin receptor relationship, which is important for thyrotropin response with a consequential production of hormones that act on the metabolism of almost all tissues and reduces the production of calcitonin, a hormone involved in bone metabolism. During space missions, the overexpression of pleiotrophin, a widespread cytokine up-regulated after tissue injury that acts on bone remodeling, attenuates changes to the thyroid that are spaceflight-dependent; therefore we studied the thyroids of pleiotrophin-transgenic mice in the Mice Drawer System Facility. In confinement, pleiotrophin overexpression does not protect from the loss of calcitonin. The contribution of confinement to thyroid damage during spaceflights is discussed.
Loss of parafollicular cells during gravitational changes (microgravity, hypergravity) and the secret effect of pleiotrophin
It is generally known that bone loss is one of the most important complications for astronauts who are exposed to long-term microgravity in space. Changes in blood flow, systemic hormones, and locally produced factors were indicated as important elements contributing to the response of osteoblastic cells to loading, but research in this field still has many questions. Here, the possible biological involvement of thyroid C cells is being investigated. The paper is a comparison between a case of a wild type single mouse and a over-expressing pleiotrophin single mouse exposed to hypogravity conditions during the first animal experiment of long stay in International Space Station (91 days) and three similar mice exposed to hypergravity (2Gs) conditions. We provide evidence that both microgravity and hypergravity induce similar loss of C cells with reduction of calcitonin production. Pleiotrophin over-expression result in some protection against negative effects of gravity change. Potential implication of the gravity mechanic forces in the regulation of bone homeostasis via thyroid equilibrium is discussed.
Observing the mouse thyroid sphingomyelin under space conditions: a case study from the MDS mission in comparison with hypergravity conditions
This is a case report of apparent thyroid structural and functional alteration in a single mouse subjected to low Earth orbit spaceflight for 91 days. Histological examination of the thyroid gland revealed an increase in the average follicle size compared to that of three control animals and three animals exposed to hypergravity (2g) conditions. Immunoblotting analysis detected an increase in two thyroid gland enzymes, sphingomyelinase and sphingomyelin-synthase1. In addition, sphingomyelinase, an enzyme confined to the cell nucleus in the control animals, was found in the mouse exposed to hypogravity to be homogeneously distributed throughout the cell bodies. It represents the first animal observation of the influence of weightlessness on sphingomyelin metabolism.
Hematologic studies were performed on 21 ground control rats and 21 rats flown during the Spacelab Life Sciences-2 14-day mission. Group A (n = 5) was used to collect blood in flight and 9 days postflight, group B (n = 5) was injected with recombinant human erythropoietin (rhEpo), group C (n = 5) received saline as a control, and group D (n = 6) was killed in flight and tissues were collected. Results indicated no significant changes in peripheral blood erythroid elements between flight and ground control rats. The nonadherent bone marrow on flight day 13 showed a lower number of recombinant rat interleukin-3 (rrIL-3)-responsive and rrIL-3 + rhEpo-responsive blast-forming unit erythroid (BFU-e) colonies in flight rats compared with ground control rats. On landing day, a slight increase in the number of rhEpo + rrIL-3-responsive BFU-e colonies of flight animals compared with ground control rats was evident. Nine days postflight, bone marrow from flight rats stimulated with rhEpo alone or with rhEpo + rrIL-3 showed an increase in the number of colony-forming unit erythroid colonies and a decrease in BFU-e colonies compared with ground control rats. This is the first time that animals were injected with rhEpo and subsequently blood and tissues were collected during the spaceflight to study the regulation of erythropoiesis in microgravity.
Spaceflight results in a number of adaptations to skeletal muscle, including atrophy and shifts toward faster muscle fiber types. To identify changes in gene expression that may underlie these adaptations, we used both microarray expression analysis and real-time polymerase chain reaction to quantify shifts in mRNA levels in the gastrocnemius from mice flown on the 11-day, 19-h STS-108 shuttle flight and from normal gravity controls. Spaceflight data also were compared with the ground-based unloading model of hindlimb suspension, with one group of pure suspension and one of suspension followed by 3.5 h of reloading to mimic the time between landing and euthanization of the spaceflight mice. Analysis of microarray data revealed that 272 mRNAs were significantly altered by spaceflight, the majority of which displayed similar responses to hindlimb suspension, whereas reloading tended to counteract these responses. Several mRNAs altered by spaceflight were associated with muscle growth, including the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase regulatory subunit p85alpha, insulin response substrate-1, the forkhead box O1 transcription factor, and MAFbx/atrogin1. Moreover, myostatin mRNA expression tended to increase, whereas mRNA levels of the myostatin inhibitor FSTL3 tended to decrease, in response to spaceflight. In addition, mRNA levels of the slow oxidative fiber-associated transcriptional coactivator peroxisome proliferator-associated receptor (PPAR)-gamma coactivator-1alpha and the transcription factor PPAR-alpha were significantly decreased in spaceflight gastrocnemius. Finally, spaceflight resulted in a significant decrease in levels of the microRNA miR-206. Together these data demonstrate that spaceflight induces significant changes in mRNA expression of genes associated with muscle growth and fiber type.