PREMISE OF THE STUDY: Gravity has been a major force throughout the evolution of terrestrial organisms, and plants have developed exquisitely sensitive, regulated tropisms and growth patterns that are based on the gravity vector. The nullified gravity during spaceflight allows direct assessment of gravity roles. The microgravity environments provided by the Space Shuttle and International Space Station have made it possible to seek novel insights into gravity perception at the organismal, tissue, and cellular levels. Cell cultures of Arabidopsis thaliana perceive and respond to spaceflight, even though they lack the specialized cell structures normally associated with gravity perception in intact plants; in particular, genes for a specific subset of heat shock proteins (HSPs) and factors (HSFs) are induced. Here we ask if similar changes in HSP gene expression occur during nonspaceflight changes in gravity stimulation. METHODS: Quantitative RT-qPCR was used to evaluate mRNA levels for Hsp17.6A and Hsp101 in cell cultures exposed to four conditions: spaceflight (mission STS-131), hypergravity (centrifugation at 3 g or 16 g), sustained two-dimensional clinorotation, and transient milligravity achieved on parabolic flights. KEY RESULTS: We showed that HSP genes were induced in cells only in response to sustained clinorotation. Transient microgravity intervals in parabolic flight and various hypergravity conditions failed to induce HSP genes. CONCLUSIONS: We conclude that nondifferentiated cells do indeed sense their gravity environment and HSP genes are induced only in response to prolonged microgravity or simulated microgravity conditions. We hypothesize that HSP induction upon microgravity indicates a role for HSP-related proteins in maintaining cytoskeletal architecture and cell shape signaling.
Research Containing: Heat-Shock Response
The response of microbes to changes in the mechanical force of fluid shear has important implications for pathogens, which experience wide fluctuations in fluid shear in vivo during infection. However, the majority of studies have not cultured microbes under physiological fluid shear conditions within a range commonly encountered by microbes during host-pathogen interactions. Here we describe a convenient batch culture biosystem in which (i) the levels of fluid shear force can be varied within physiologically relevant ranges and quantified via mathematical models and (ii) large numbers of cells can be planktonically grown and harvested to examine the effect of fluid shear levels on microbial genomic and phenotypic responses. A quantitative model based on numerical simulations and in situ imaging analysis was developed to calculate the fluid shear imparted by spherical beads of different sizes on bacterial cell cultures grown in a rotating wall vessel (RWV) bioreactor. To demonstrate the application of this model, we subjected cultures of the bacterial pathogen Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium to three physiologically-relevant fluid shear ranges during growth in the RVW and demonstrated a progressive relationship between the applied fluid shear and the bacterial genetic and phenotypic responses. By applying this model to different cell types, including other bacterial pathogens, entire classes of genes and proteins involved in cellular interactions may be discovered that have not previously been identified during growth under conventional culture conditions, leading to new targets for vaccine and therapeutic development.
The survival and behavior of Cupriavidus metallidurans strain CH34 were tested in space. In three spaceflight experiments, during three separate visits to the 'International Space Station' (ISS), strain CH34 was grown for 10-12 days at ambient temperature on mineral agar medium. Space- and earth-grown cells were compared post-flight by flow cytometry and using 2D-gel protein analysis. Pre-, in- and post-flight incubation conditions and experiment design had a significant impact on the survival and growth of CH34 in space. In the CH34 cells returning from spaceflight, 16 proteins were identified which were present in higher concentration in cells developed in spaceflight conditions. These proteins were involved in a specific response of CH34 to carbon limitation and oxidative stress, and included an acetone carboxylase subunit, fructose biphosphate aldolase, a DNA protection during starvation protein, chaperone protein, universal stress protein, and alkyl hydroperoxide reductase. The reproducible observation of the over-expression of these same proteins in multiple flight experiments, indicated that the CH34 cells could experience a substrate limitation and oxidative stress in spaceflight where cells and substrates are exposed to lower levels of gravity and higher doses of ionizing radiation. Bacterium C. metallidurans CH34 was able to grow normally under spaceflight conditions with very minor to no effects on cell physiology, but nevertheless specifically altered the expression of a few proteins in response to the environmental changes.