On Earth, it is common to employ laboratory animals such as the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans to help understand human health concerns. Similar studies in Earth orbit should help understand and address the concerns associated with spaceflight. The "International Caenorhabditis elegans Experiment FIRST" (ICE FIRST), was carried out onboard the Dutch Taxiflight in April of 2004 by an international collaboration of laboratories in France, Canada, Japan and the United States. With the exception of a slight movement defect upon return to Earth, the result of altered muscle development, no significant abnormalities were detected in spaceflown C. elegans. Work from Japan revealed apoptosis proceeds normally and work from Canada revealed no significant increase in the rate of mutation. These results suggest that C. elegans can be used to study non-lethal responses to spaceflight and can possibly be developed as a biological sensor. To further our understanding of C. elegans response to spaceflight, we examined the gene transcription response to the 10 days in space using a near full genome microarray analysis. The transcriptional response is consistent with the observed normal developmental timing, apoptosis, DNA repair, and altered muscle development. The genes identified as altered in response to spaceflight are enriched for genes known to be regulated, in C. elegans, in response to altered environmental conditions (Insulin and TGF-beta regulated). These results demonstrate C. elegans can be used to study the effects of altered gravity and suggest that C. elegans responds to spaceflight by altering the expression of at least some of the same metabolic genes that are altered in response to differing terrestrial environments.
Research Containing: Gene Regulation
Novel Sfp1 transcriptional regulation of Saccharomyces cerevisiae gene expression changes during spaceflight
This study identifies transcriptional regulation of stress response element (STRE) genes in space in the model eukaryotic organism, Saccharomyces cerevisiae. To determine transcription-factor dependence, gene expression changes in space were examined in strains bearing green fluorescent protein-tagged (GFP-tagged) reporters for YIL052C (Sfp1 dependent with stress), YST-2 (Sfp1/Rap1 dependent with stress), or SSA4 (Msn4 dependent with stress), along with strains of SSA4-GFP and YIL052C-GFP with individual deletions of the Msn4 or Sfp1. When compared to parallel ground controls, spaceflight induces significant gene expression changes in SSA4 (35% decrease) and YIL052C (45% decrease), while expression of YST-2 (0.08% decrease) did not change. In space, deletion of Sfp1 reversed the SSA4 gene expression effect (0.00% change), but Msn4 deletion yielded a similar decrease in SSA4 expression (34% change), which indicates that SSA4 gene expression is dependent on the Sfp1 transcription factor in space, unlike other stresses. For YIL052C, deletion of Sfp1 reversed the effect (0.01% change), and the Msn4 deletion maintained the decrease in expression (30% change), which indicates that expression of YIL052C is also dependent on Sfp1 in space. Spaceflight has selective and specific effects on SSA4 and YIL052C gene expression, indicated by novel dependence on Sfp1.