The molecular mechanisms underlying muscle atrophy during spaceflight are not well understood. We have analyzed the effects of a 10-day spaceflight on Caenorhabditis elegans muscle development. DNA microarray, real-time quantitative PCR, and quantitative western blot analyses revealed that the amount of MHC in both body-wall and pharyngeal muscle decrease in response to spaceflight. Decreased transcription of the body-wall myogenic transcription factor HLH-1 (CeMyoD) and of the three pharyngeal myogenic transcription factors, PEB-1, CEH-22 and PHA-4 were also observed. Upon return to Earth animals displayed reduced rates of movement, indicating a functional defect. These results demonstrate that C. elegans muscle development is altered in response to spaceflight. This altered development occurs at the level of gene transcription and was observed in the presence of innervation, not simply in isolated cells. This important finding coupled with past observations of decreased levels of the same myogenic transcription factions in vertebrates after spaceflight raises the possibility that altered muscle development is a contributing factor to spaceflight-induced muscle atrophy in vertebrates.
Research Containing: *Gene Expression Regulation
Spaceflight-related suboptimal conditions can accentuate the altered gravity response of Drosophila transcriptome
Genome-wide transcriptional profiling shows that reducing gravity levels during Drosophila metamorphosis in the International Space Station (ISS) causes important alterations in gene expression: a large set of differentially expressed genes (DEGs) are observed compared to 1g controls. However, the preparation procedures for spaceflight and the nonideal environmental conditions on board the ISS subject the organisms to additional environmental stresses that demonstrably affect gene expression. Simulated microgravity experiments performed on the ground, under ideal conditions for the flies, using the random position machine (RPM), show much more subtle effects on gene expression. However, when the ground experiments are repeated under conditions designed to reproduce the additional environmental stresses imposed by spaceflight procedures, 79% of the DEGs detected in the ISS are reproduced by the RPM experiment. Gene ontology analysis of them shows they are genes that affect respiratory activity, developmental processes and stress-related changes. Here, we analyse the effects of microgravity on gene expression in relation to the environmental stresses imposed by spaceflight. Analysis using 'gene expression dynamics inspector' (GEDI) self-organizing maps reveals a subtle response of the transcriptome to microgravity. Remarkably, hypergravity simulation induces similar response of the transcriptome, but in the opposite direction, i.e. the genes promoted under microgravity are usually suppressed under hypergravity. These results suggest that the transcriptome is finely tuned to normal gravity and that microgravity, together with environmental constraints associated with space experiments, can have profound effects on gene expression.
Our previous results with flight (FLT) mice showed abnormalities in thymuses and spleens that have potential to compromise immune defense mechanisms. In this study, the organs were further evaluated in C57BL/6 mice after Space Shuttle Atlantis returned from a 13-day mission. Thymuses and spleens were harvested from FLT mice and ground controls housed in similar animal enclosure modules (AEM). Organ and body mass, DNA fragmentation and expression of genes related to T cells and cancer were determined. Although significance was not obtained for thymus mass, DNA fragmentation was greater in the FLT group (P<0.01). Spleen mass alone and relative to body mass was significantly decreased in FLT mice (P<0.05). In FLT thymuses, 6/84 T cell-related genes were affected versus the AEM control group (P<0.05; up: IL10, Il18bp, Il18r1, Spp1; down: Ccl7, IL6); 15/84 cancer-related genes had altered expression (P<0.05; up: Casp8, FGFR2, Figf, Hgf, IGF1, Itga4, Ncam1, Pdgfa, Pik3r1, Serpinb2, Sykb; down: Cdc25a, E2F1, Mmp9, Myc). In the spleen, 8/84 cancer-related genes were affected in FLT mice compared to AEM controls (P<0.05; up: Cdkn2a; down: Birc5, Casp8, Ctnnb1, Map2k1, Mdm2, NFkB1, Pdgfa). Pathway analysis (apoptosis signaling and checkpoint regulation) was used to map relationships among the cancer-related genes. The results showed that a relatively short mission in space had a significant impact on both organs. The findings also indicate that immune system aberrations due to stressors associated with space travel should be included when estimating risk for pathologies such as cancer and infection and in designing appropriate countermeasures. Although this was the historic last flight of NASA's Space Shuttle Program, exploration of space will undoubtedly continue.
The immune system is highly sensitive to stressors present during spaceflight. The major emphasis of this study was on the T lymphocytes in C57BL/6NTac mice after return from a 13-day space shuttle mission (STS-118). Spleens and thymuses from flight animals (FLT) and ground controls similarly housed in animal enclosure modules (AEM) were evaluated within 3-6 h after landing. Phytohemagglutinin-induced splenocyte DNA synthesis was significantly reduced in FLT mice when based on both counts per minute and stimulation indexes (P < 0.05). Flow cytometry showed that CD3(+) T and CD19(+) B cell counts were low in spleens from the FLT group, whereas the number of NK1.1(+) natural killer (NK) cells was increased (P < 0.01 for all three populations vs. AEM). The numerical changes resulted in a low percentage of T cells and high percentage of NK cells in FLT animals (P < 0.05). After activation of spleen cells with anti-CD3 monoclonal antibody, interleukin-2 (IL-2) was decreased, but IL-10, interferon-gamma, and macrophage inflammatory protein-1alpha were increased in FLT mice (P < 0.05). Analysis of cancer-related genes in the thymus showed that the expression of 30 of 84 genes was significantly affected by flight (P < 0.05). Genes that differed from AEM controls by at least 1.5-fold were Birc5, Figf, Grb2, and Tert (upregulated) and Fos, Ifnb1, Itgb3, Mmp9, Myc, Pdgfb, S100a4, Thbs, and Tnf (downregulated). Collectively, the data show that T cell distribution, function, and gene expression are significantly modified shortly after return from the spaceflight environment.
Embryonic stem (ES)-cell-derived lineage-specific stem cells, for example, hematopoietic stem cells, could provide a potentially unlimited source for transplantable cells, especially for cell-based therapies. However, reproducible methods must be developed to maximize and scale-up ES cell differentiation to produce clinically relevant numbers of therapeutic cells. Bioreactor-based dynamic culture conditions are amenable to large-scale cell production, but few studies have evaluated how various bioreactor types and culture parameters influence ES cell differentiation, especially hematopoiesis. Our results indicate that cell seeding density and bioreactor speed significantly affect embryoid body formation and subsequent generation of hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells in both stirred tank (spinner flask) and rotary microgravity (Synthecon (TM)) type bioreactors. In general, high percentages of hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells were generated in both bioreactors, especially at high cell densities. In addition, Synthecon bioreactors produced more sca-1(+) progenitors and spinner flasks generated more c-Kit(+) progenitors, demonstrating their unique differentiation profiles. cDNA microarray analysis of genes involved in pluripotency, germ layer formation, and hematopoietic differentiation showed that on day 7 of differentiation, embryoid bodies from both bioreactors consisted of all three germ layers of embryonic development. However, unique gene expression profiles were observed in the two bioreactors; for example, expression of specific hematopoietic genes were significantly more upregulated in the Synthecon cultures than in spinner flasks. We conclude that bioreactor type and culture parameters can be used to control ES cell differentiation, enhance unique progenitor cell populations, and provide means for large-scale production of transplantable therapeutic cells.
<Go to ISI>://WOS:000283899600001
Computational modeling for the optimization of a cardiogenic 3D bioprocess of encapsulated embryonic stem cells
We present a computational fluid dynamics (CFD)-based model aimed at the identification of optimized culture conditions promoting efficient cardiogenesis of hydrogel-bead-encapsulated embryonic stem cells (ESCs) within a rotating bioreactor. The numerical approach, integrating diffusion, convection, and multiphase fluid dynamics calculations, allowed to evaluate (i) the microgravity motion of the floating beads, (ii) the O-2 delivery to the cells, also (iii) taking into account the cellularO(2) consumption, as a function of different rotation speeds of the breeding chamber. According to our results, a 25rpm rotation (i) enhances an adequate mixing of the cell carriers, avoiding sedimentation and excessive packing, also maintaining a quite homogeneous distribution of the suspended beads and (ii) imparts a proper cellular O-2 supply, providing cells close to a normoxia condition. The bioreactor working conditions derived from the numerical analysis allowed the attainment of in vitro long-term cell viability maintenance, supporting efficient large-scale generation of ESC-derived cardiomyocytes (ESC-DCs) through a chemical-based conditioning bioprocess. In conclusion, we demonstrated the feasibility of using CFD-based tools, as a reliable and cost-effective strategy to assist the design of a 3D cardiogenic bioprocess.
<Go to ISI>://WOS:000300230600020
This study presents the first global transcriptional profiling and phenotypic characterization of the major human opportunistic fungal pathogen, Candida albicans, grown in spaceflight conditions. Microarray analysis revealed that C. albicans subjected to short-term spaceflight culture differentially regulated 452 genes compared to synchronous ground controls, which represented 8.3% of the analyzed ORFs. Spaceflight-cultured C. albicans-induced genes involved in cell aggregation (similar to flocculation), which was validated by microscopic and flow cytometry analysis. We also observed enhanced random budding of spaceflight-cultured cells as opposed to bipolar budding patterns for ground samples, in accordance with the gene expression data. Furthermore, genes involved in antifungal agent and stress resistance were differentially regulated in spaceflight, including induction of ABC transporters and members of the major facilitator family, downregulation of ergosterol-encoding genes, and upregulation of genes involved in oxidative stress resistance. Finally, downregulation of genes involved in actin cytoskeleton was observed. Interestingly, the transcriptional regulator Cap1 and over 30% of the Cap1 regulon was differentially expressed in spaceflight-cultured C. albicans. A potential role for Cap1 in the spaceflight response of C. albicans is suggested, as this regulator is involved in random budding, cell aggregation, and oxidative stress resistance; all related to observed spaceflight-associated changes of C. albicans. While culture of C. albicans in microgravity potentiates a global change in gene expression that could induce a virulence-related phenotype, no increased virulence in a murine intraperitoneal (i.p.) infection model was observed under the conditions of this study. Collectively, our data represent an important basis for the assessment of the risk that commensal flora could play during human spaceflight missions. Furthermore, since the low fluid-shear environment of microgravity is relevant to physical forces encountered by pathogens during the infection process, insights gained from this study could identify novel infectious disease mechanisms, with downstream benefits for the general public.
As a ubiquitous environmental organism that is occasionally part of the human flora, Pseudomonas aeruginosa could pose a health hazard for the immunocompromised astronauts during long-term missions. Therefore, insights into the behaviour of P. aeruginosa under spaceflight conditions were gained using two spaceflight-analogue culture systems: the rotating wall vessel (RWV) and the random position machine (RPM). Microarray analysis of P. aeruginosa PAO1 grown in the low shear modelled microgravity (LSMMG) environment of the RWV, compared with the normal gravity control (NG), revealed an apparent regulatory role for the alternative sigma factor AlgU (RpoE-like). Accordingly, P. aeruginosa cultured in LSMMG exhibited increased alginate production and upregulation of AlgU-controlled transcripts, including those encoding stress-related proteins. The LSMMG increased heat and oxidative stress resistance and caused a decrease in the oxygen transfer rate of the culture. This study also showed the involvement of the RNA-binding protein Hfq in the LSMMG response, consistent with its previously identified role in the Salmonella LSMMG and spaceflight response. The global transcriptional response of P. aeruginosa grown in the RPM was highly similar to that in NG. Fluid mixing was assessed in both systems and is believed to be a pivotal factor contributing to transcriptional differences between RWV- and RPM-grown P. aeruginosa. This study represents the first step towards the identification of virulence mechanisms of P. aeruginosa activated in response to spaceflight-analogue conditions, and could direct future research regarding the risk assessment and prevention of Pseudomonas infections during spaceflight and in immunocompromised patients.
Transcriptional and proteomic responses of Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1 to spaceflight conditions involve Hfq regulation and reveal a role for oxygen
Assessing bacterial behavior in microgravity is important for risk assessment and prevention of infectious diseases during spaceflight missions. Furthermore, this research field allows the unveiling of novel connections between low-fluid-shear regions encountered by pathogens during their natural infection process and bacterial virulence. This study is the first to characterize the spaceflight-induced global transcriptional and proteomic responses of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, an opportunistic pathogen that is present in the space habitat. P. aeruginosa responded to spaceflight conditions through differential regulation of 167 genes and 28 proteins, with Hfq as a global transcriptional regulator. Since Hfq was also differentially regulated in spaceflight-grown Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium, Hfq represents the first spaceflight-induced regulator acting across bacterial species. The major P. aeruginosa virulence-related genes induced in spaceflight were the lecA and lecB lectin genes and the gene for rhamnosyltransferase (rhlA), which is involved in rhamnolipid production. The transcriptional response of spaceflight-grown P. aeruginosa was compared with our previous data for this organism grown in microgravity analogue conditions using the rotating wall vessel (RWV) bioreactor. Interesting similarities were observed, including, among others, similarities with regard to Hfq regulation and oxygen metabolism. While RWV-grown P. aeruginosa mainly induced genes involved in microaerophilic metabolism, P. aeruginosa cultured in spaceflight presumably adopted an anaerobic mode of growth, in which denitrification was most prominent. Whether the observed changes in pathogenesis-related gene expression in response to spaceflight culture could lead to an alteration of virulence in P. aeruginosa remains to be determined and will be important for infectious disease risk assessment and prevention, both during spaceflight missions and for the general public.
Salt stress-induced Ca2+ waves are associated with rapid, long-distance root-to-shoot signaling in plants
Their sessile lifestyle means that plants have to be exquisitely sensitive to their environment, integrating many signals to appropriate developmental and physiological responses. Stimuli ranging from wounding and pathogen attack to the distribution of water and nutrients in the soil are frequently presented in a localized manner but responses are often elicited throughout the plant. Such systemic signaling is thought to operate through the redistribution of a host of chemical regulators including peptides, RNAs, ions, metabolites, and hormones. However, there are hints of a much more rapid communication network that has been proposed to involve signals ranging from action and system potentials to reactive oxygen species. We now show that plants also possess a rapid stress signaling system based on Ca(2+) waves that propagate through the plant at rates of up to approximately 400 microm/s. In the case of local salt stress to the Arabidopsis thaliana root, Ca(2+) wave propagation is channeled through the cortex and endodermal cell layers and this movement is dependent on the vacuolar ion channel TPC1. We also provide evidence that the Ca(2+) wave/TPC1 system likely elicits systemic molecular responses in target organs and may contribute to whole-plant stress tolerance. These results suggest that, although plants do not have a nervous system, they do possess a sensory network that uses ion fluxes moving through defined cell types to rapidly transmit information between distant sites within the organism.