Experiments executed on the upper limb are assuming increasing significance in the frame of the Human Physiology in space, for at least two reasons: the upper limb is the principal means of locomotion for the subject living in a space station; furthermore, fatigue can have a significant effect on the hand, for the ordinary work on board, and in particular for the extra-vehicular activities. The degradation of the performances affecting the muscular-skeletal apparatus can be easily recognized on the upper limb, by exerting specific scientific protocols, to be repeated through the permanence of the subject in weightlessness conditions. Another aspect relevant to the effect of microgravity on the upper limb is associated with the alteration of the motor control programs due to the different gravity factor, affecting not only the bio-mechanics of the subject, but in general all his/her psycho-physical conditions, induced by the totally different environment. Specific protocols on the upper limb can facilitate the studies on learning mechanisms for the motor control. The results of such experiments can be transferred to the Earth, useful for treatment of subjects with local traumas or diseases of the Central Nervous System.
Research Containing: Physiological
Microbial adaptation to environmental stimuli is essential for survival. While several of these stimuli have been studied in detail, recent studies have demonstrated an important role for a novel environmental parameter in which microgravity and the low fluid shear dynamics associated with microgravity globally regulate microbial gene expression, physiology, and pathogenesis. In addition to analyzing fundamental questions about microbial responses to spaceflight, these studies have demonstrated important applications for microbial responses to a ground-based, low-shear stress environment similar to that encountered during spaceflight. Moreover, the low-shear growth environment sensed by microbes during microgravity of spaceflight and during ground-based microgravity analogue culture is relevant to those encountered during their natural life cycles on Earth. While no mechanism has been clearly defined to explain how the mechanical force of fluid shear transmits intracellular signals to microbial cells at the molecular level, the fact that cross talk exists between microbial signal transduction systems holds intriguing possibilities that future studies might reveal common mechanotransduction themes between these systems and those used to sense and respond to low-shear stress and changes in gravitation forces. The study of microbial mechanotransduction may identify common conserved mechanisms used by cells to perceive changes in mechanical and/or physical forces, and it has the potential to provide valuable insight for understanding mechanosensing mechanisms in higher organisms. This review summarizes recent and future research trends aimed at understanding the dynamic effects of changes in the mechanical forces that occur in microgravity and other low-shear environments on a wide variety of important microbial parameters.
Vestibular-somatosensory convergence in head movement control during locomotion after long-duration space flight
Space flight causes astronauts to be exposed to adaptation in both the vestibular and body load-sensing somatosensory systems. The goal of these studies was to examine the contributions of vestibular and body load-sensing somatosensory influences on vestibular mediated head movement control during locomotion after long-duration space flight. Subjects walked on a motor driven treadmill while performing a gaze stabilization task. Data were collected from three independent subject groups that included bilateral labyrinthine deficient (LD) patients, normal subjects before and after 30 minutes of 40% bodyweight unloaded treadmill walking, and astronauts before and after long-duration space flight. Motion data from the head and trunk segments were used to calculate the amplitude of angular head pitch and trunk vertical translation movement while subjects performed a gaze stabilization task, to estimate the contributions of vestibular reflexive mechanisms in head pitch movements. Exposure to unloaded locomotion caused a significant increase in head pitch movements in normal subjects, whereas the head pitch movements of LD patients were significantly decreased. This is the first evidence of adaptation of vestibular mediated head movement responses to unloaded treadmill walking. Astronaut subjects showed a heterogeneous response of both increases and decreases in the amplitude of head pitch movement. We infer that body load-sensing somatosensory input centrally modulates vestibular input and can adaptively modify vestibularly mediated head-movement control during locomotion. Thus, space flight may cause central adaptation of the converging vestibular and body load-sensing somatosensory systems leading to alterations in head movement control.
A possible involvement of autophagy in amyloplast degradation in columella cells during hydrotropic response of Arabidopsis roots
Seedling roots display not only gravitropism but also hydrotropism, and the two tropisms interfere with one another. In Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) roots, amyloplasts in columella cells are rapidly degraded during the hydrotropic response. Degradation of amyloplasts involved in gravisensing enhances the hydrotropic response by reducing the gravitropic response. However, the mechanism by which amyloplasts are degraded in hydrotropically responding roots remains unknown. In this study, the mechanistic aspects of the degradation of amyloplasts in columella cells during hydrotropic response were investigated by analyzing organellar morphology, cell polarity and changes in gene expression. The results showed that hydrotropic stimulation or systemic water stress caused dramatic changes in organellar form and positioning in columella cells. Specifically, the columella cells of hydrotropically responding or water-stressed roots lost polarity in the distribution of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), and showed accelerated vacuolization and nuclear movement. Analysis of ER-localized GFP showed that ER redistributed around the developed vacuoles. Cells often showed decomposing amyloplasts in autophagosome-like structures. Both hydrotropic stimulation and water stress upregulated the expression of AtATG18a, which is required for autophagosome formation. Furthermore, analysis with GFP-AtATG8a revealed that both hydrotropic stimulation and water stress induced the formation of autophagosomes in the columella cells. In addition, expression of plastid marker, pt-GFP, in the columella cells dramatically decreased in response to both hydrotropic stimulation and water stress, but its decrease was much less in the autophagy mutant atg5. These results suggest that hydrotropic stimulation confers water stress in the roots, which triggers an autophagic response responsible for the degradation of amyloplasts in columella cells of Arabidopsis roots.
Overexpression of MIZU-KUSSEI1 enhances the root hydrotropic response by retaining cell viability under hydrostimulated conditions in Arabidopsis thaliana
Because of their sessile nature, plants evolved several mechanisms to tolerate or avoid conditions where water is scarce. The molecular mechanisms contributing to drought tolerance have been studied extensively, whereas the molecular mechanism underlying drought avoidance is less understood despite its importance. Several lines of evidence showed that the roots sense the moisture gradient and grow toward the wet area: so-called hydrotropism. We previously identified MIZU-KUSSEI (MIZ) 1 and MIZ2/GNOM as genes responsible for this process. To gain new insight into the molecular mechanism of root hydrotropism, we generated overexpressors of MIZ1 (MIZ1OEs) and analyzed their hydrotropic response. MIZ1OEs had a remarkable enhancement of root hydrotropism. Furthermore, a greater number of MIZ1OE root cells remained viable under hydrostimulated conditions than those of the wild type, which might contribute to retaining root growth under hydrostimulated conditions. Although overexpression of MIZ1 also caused a slight decrease in the root gravitropic response, it was not attributable to the enhanced hydrotropic response. In addition, miz2 mutation or the auxin response inhibitor nullified the enhanced hydrotropic response in MIZ1OEs. Furthermore, the expression of MIZ1 did not alter the expression of typical genes involved in drought tolerance. These results suggest that MIZ1 positively regulates hydrotropism at an early stage and its overexpression results in an enhancement of signal transduction unique to root hydrotropism to increase the degree of hydrotropic root bending.
Latent virus reactivation and diurnal salivary cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone were measured prospectively in 17 astronauts (16 male and 1 female) before, during, and after short-duration (12-16 days) Space Shuttle missions. Blood, urine, and saliva samples were collected during each of these phases. Antiviral antibodies and viral load (DNA) were measured for Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), varicella-zoster virus (VZV), and cytomegalovirus (CMV). Three astronauts did not shed any virus in any of their samples collected before, during, or after flight. EBV was shed in the saliva in all of the remaining 14 astronauts during all 3 phases of flight. Seven of the 14 EBV-shedding subjects also shed VZV during and after the flight in their saliva samples, and 8 of 14 EBV-shedders also shed CMV in their urine samples before, during, and after flight. In 6 of 14 crewmembers, all 3 target viruses were shed during one or more flight phases. Both EBV and VZV DNA copies were elevated during the flight phase relative to preflight or post-flight levels. EBV DNA in peripheral blood was increased preflight relative to post-flight. Eighteen healthy controls were also included in the study. Approximately 2-5% of controls shed EBV while none shed VZV or CMV. Salivary cortisol measured preflight and during flight were elevated relative to post-flight. In contrast DHEA decreased during the flight phase relative to both preflight and post-flight. As a consequence, the molar ratio of the area under the diurnal curve of cortisol to DHEA with respect to ground (AUCg) increased significantly during flight. This ratio was unrelated to viral shedding. In summary, three herpes viruses can reactivate individually or in combination during spaceflight.
Experimental design and environmental parameters affect Rhodospirillum rubrum S1H response to space flight
In view of long-haul space exploration missions, the European Space Agency initiated the Micro-Ecological Life Support System Alternative (MELiSSA) project targeting the total recycling of organic waste produced by the astronauts into oxygen, water and food using a loop of bacterial and higher plant bioreactors. In that purpose, the alpha-proteobacterium, Rhodospirillum rubrum S1H, was sent twice to the International Space Station and was analyzed post-flight using a newly developed R. rubrum whole genome oligonucleotide microarray and high throughput gel-free proteomics with Isotope-Coded Protein Label technology. Moreover, in an effort to identify a specific response of R. rubrum S1H to space flight, simulation of microgravity and space-ionizing radiation were performed on Earth under identical culture set-up and growth conditions as encountered during the actual space journeys. Transcriptomic and proteomic data were integrated and permitted to put forward the importance of medium composition and culture set-up on the response of the bacterium to space flight-related environmental conditions. In addition, we showed for the first time that a low dose of ionizing radiation (2 mGy) can induce a significant response at the transcriptomic level, although no change in cell viability and only a few significant differentially expressed proteins were observed. From the MELiSSA perspective, we could argue the effect of microgravity to be minimized, whereas R. rubrum S1H could be more sensitive to ionizing radiation during long-term space exploration mission.
Varicella zoster virus (VZV) becomes latent in human ganglia after primary infection. VZV reactivation occurs primarily in elderly individuals, organ transplant recipients, and patients with cancer and AIDS, correlating with a specific decline in cell-mediated immunity to the virus. VZV can also reactivate after surgical stress. The unexpected occurrence of thoracic zoster 2 days before space flight in a 47-year-old healthy astronaut from a pool of 81 physically fit astronauts prompted our search for VZV reactivation during times of stress to determine whether VZV can also reactivate after non-surgical stress. We examined total DNA extracted from 312 saliva samples of eight astronauts before, during, and after space flight for VZV DNA by polymerase chain reaction: 112 samples were obtained 234-265 days before flight, 84 samples on days 2 through 13 of space flight, and 116 samples on days 1 through 15 after flight. Before space flight, only one of the 112 saliva samples from a single astronaut was positive for VZV DNA. In contrast, during and after space flight, 61 of 200 (30%) saliva samples were positive in all eight astronauts. No VZV DNA was detected in any of 88 saliva samples from 10 healthy control subjects. These results indicate that VZV can reactivate subclinically in healthy individuals after non-surgical stress.
Success of long duration space missions will depend upon robust immunity. Decreased immunity has been observed in astronauts during short duration missions, as evident by the reactivation of latent herpes viruses. Seventeen astronauts were studied for reactivation and shedding of latent herpes viruses before, during, and after 9-14 days of 8 spaceflights. Blood, urine, and saliva samples were collected 10 days before the flight (L-10), during the flight (saliva only), 2-3h after landing (R+0), 3 days after landing (R+3), and 120 days after landing (R+120). Values at R+120 were used as baseline levels. No shedding of viruses occurred before flight, but 9 of the 17 (designated "virus shedders") shed at least one or more viruses during and after flight. The remaining 8 astronauts did not shed any of the 3 target viruses (non-virus shedders). Virus-shedders showed elevations in 10 plasma cytokines (IL-1alpha, IL-6, IL-8, IFNgamma, IL-4, IL-10, IL-12, IL-13, eotaxin, and IP-10) at R+0 over baseline values. Only IL-4 and IP-10 were elevated in plasma of non-virus shedders. In virus shedders, plasma IL-4 (a Th2 cytokine) was elevated 21-fold at R+0, whereas IFNgamma (a Th1 cytokine) was elevated only 2-fold indicating a Th2 shift. The inflammatory cytokine IL-6 was elevated 33-fold at R+0. In non-shedding astronauts at R+0, only IL-4 and IP-10 levels were elevated over baseline values. Elevated cytokines began returning to normal by R+3, and by R+120 all except IL-4 had returned to baseline values. These data show an association between elevated plasma cytokines and increased viral reactivation in astronauts.