Bone is a complex dynamic tissue undergoing a continuous remodeling process. Gravity is a physical force playing a role in the remodeling and contributing to the maintenance of bone integrity. This article reports an investigation on the alterations of the bone microarchitecture that occurred in wild type (Wt) and pleiotrophin-transgenic (PTN-Tg) mice exposed to a near-zero gravity on the International Space Station (ISS) during the Mice Drawer System (MDS) mission, to date, the longest mice permanence (91 days) in space. The transgenic mouse strain over-expressing pleiotrophin (PTN) in bone was selected because of the PTN positive effects on bone turnover. Wt and PTN-Tg control animals were maintained on Earth either in a MDS payload or in a standard vivarium cage. This study revealed a bone loss during spaceflight in the weight-bearing bones of both strains. For both Tg and Wt a decrease of the trabecular number as well as an increase of the mean trabecular separation was observed after flight, whereas trabecular thickness did not show any significant change. Non weight-bearing bones were not affected. The PTN-Tg mice exposed to normal gravity presented a poorer trabecular organization than Wt mice, but interestingly, the expression of the PTN transgene during the flight resulted in some protection against microgravity's negative effects. Moreover, osteocytes of the Wt mice, but not of Tg mice, acquired a round shape, thus showing for the first time osteocyte space-related morphological alterations in vivo. The analysis of specific bone formation and resorption marker expression suggested that the microgravity-induced bone loss was due to both an increased bone resorption and a decreased bone deposition. Apparently, the PTN transgene protection was the result of a higher osteoblast activity in the flight mice.
Research Containing: Transgenic
Erythrocyte and hemoglobin losses have been frequently observed in humans during space missions; these observations have been designated as "space anemia". Erythrocytes exposed to microgravity have a modified rheology and undergo hemolysis to a greater extent. Cell membrane composition plays an important role in determining erythrocyte resistance to mechanical stress and it is well known that membrane composition might be influenced by external events, such as hypothermia, hypoxia or gravitational strength variations. Moreover, an altered cell membrane composition, in particular in fatty acids, can cause a greater sensitivity to peroxidative stress, with increase in membrane fragility. Solar radiation or low wavelength electromagnetic radiations (such as gamma rays) from the Earth or the space environment can split water to generate the hydroxyl radical, very reactive at the site of its formation, which can initiate chain reactions leading to lipid peroxidation. These reactive free radicals can react with the non-radical molecules, leading to oxidative damage of lipids, proteins and DNA, etiologically associated with various diseases and morbidities such as cancer, cell degeneration, and inflammation. Indeed, radiation constitutes on of the most important hazard for humans during long-term space flights. With this background, we participated to the MDS tissue-sharing program performing analyses on mice erythrocytes flown on the ISS from August to November 2009. Our results indicate that space flight induced modifications in cell membrane composition and increase of lipid peroxidation products, in mouse erythrocytes. Moreover, antioxidant defenses in the flight erythrocytes were induced, with a significant increase of glutathione content as compared to both vivarium and ground control erythrocytes. Nonetheless, this induction was not sufficient to prevent damages caused by oxidative stress. Future experiments should provide information helpful to reduce the effects of oxidative stress exposure and space anemia, possibly by integrating appropriate dietary elements and natural compounds that could act as antioxidants.
We have analyzed the biology of embryonic, epidermal growth factor-responsive murine neural precursor cells cultured in the high-aspect ratio vessel (HARV). Within 2-3 d of rotary-cell culture, such cells formed multiple, macroscopic, three-dimensional structures that were orders of magnitude larger than the cellular clusters ("neurospheres") formed by these cells in conventional stationary-flask cultures. Each HARV structure was composed of a multilayered cellular shell surrounding one or more central cavities that were bordered by pyknotic cell nuclei. Although the cells in the HARV structures were more pleomorphic than those in neurospheres, the structures did not appear to represent primitive neural tumors: the formation of HARV structures by precursor cells was not an irreversible phenotypic change, and the structures dill not originate front the clonal expansion of single-progenitor cells; the growth rate and invasiveness of the cells in HARVs were less than those in flasks; and HARV-cultured cells did not form tumors after subcutaneous inoculation into the Hanks of NOD-scid/scid mice. Immunohistochemical analysis suggested that HARV structures might be novel "proto-tissues" characterized by a crude. but organized, architecture, with a surface laver of immature proliferating cells (nestin- and proliferating cell nuclear antigen-positive) that enclosed strata of more differentiated cells (beta -tubulin III- and glial fibrillary acidic protein-positive) within. Rotary-cell culture may have significant implications for the eventual utility. of neural precursors for clinical neurotransplantation.
<Go to ISI>://WOS:000168690900004
Effects of pleiotrophin overexpression on mouse skeletal muscles in normal loading and in actual and simulated microgravity
Pleiotrophin (PTN) is a widespread cytokine involved in bone formation, neurite outgrowth, and angiogenesis. In skeletal muscle, PTN is upregulated during myogenesis, post-synaptic induction, and regeneration after crushing, but little is known regarding its effects on muscle function. Here, we describe the effects of PTN on the slow-twitch soleus and fast-twitch extensor digitorum longus (EDL) muscles in mice over-expressing PTN under the control of a bone promoter. The mice were maintained in normal loading or disuse condition, induced by hindlimb unloading (HU) for 14 days. Effects of exposition to near-zero gravity during a 3-months spaceflight (SF) into the Mice Drawer System are also reported. In normal loading, PTN overexpression had no effect on muscle fiber cross-sectional area, but shifted soleus muscle toward a slower phenotype, as shown by an increased number of oxidative type 1 fibers, and increased gene expression of cytochrome c oxidase subunit IV and citrate synthase. The cytokine increased soleus and EDL capillary-to-fiber ratio. PTN overexpression did not prevent soleus muscle atrophy, slow-to-fast transition, and capillary regression induced by SF and HU. Nevertheless, PTN exerted various effects on sarcolemma ion channel expression/function and resting cytosolic Ca(2+) concentration in soleus and EDL muscles, in normal loading and after HU. In conclusion, the results show very similar effects of HU and SF on mouse soleus muscle, including activation of specific gene programs. The EDL muscle is able to counterbalance this latter, probably by activating compensatory mechanisms. The numerous effects of PTN on muscle gene expression and functional parameters demonstrate the sensitivity of muscle fibers to the cytokine. Although little benefit was found in HU muscle disuse, PTN may emerge useful in various muscle diseases, because it exerts synergetic actions on muscle fibers and vessels, which could enforce oxidative metabolism and ameliorate muscle performance.
The Italian Space Agency, in line with its scientific strategies and the National Utilization Plan for the International Space Station (ISS), contracted Thales Alenia Space Italia to design and build a spaceflight payload for rodent research on ISS: the Mice Drawer System (MDS). The payload, to be integrated inside the Space Shuttle middeck during transportation and inside the Express Rack in the ISS during experiment execution, was designed to function autonomously for more than 3 months and to involve crew only for maintenance activities. In its first mission, three wild type (Wt) and three transgenic male mice over-expressing pleiotrophin under the control of a bone-specific promoter (PTN-Tg) were housed in the MDS. At the time of launch, animals were 2-months old. MDS reached the ISS on board of Shuttle Discovery Flight 17A/STS-128 on August 28(th), 2009. MDS returned to Earth on November 27(th), 2009 with Shuttle Atlantis Flight ULF3/STS-129 after 91 days, performing the longest permanence of mice in space. Unfortunately, during the MDS mission, one PTN-Tg and two Wt mice died due to health status or payload-related reasons. The remaining mice showed a normal behavior throughout the experiment and appeared in excellent health conditions at landing. During the experiment, the mice health conditions and their water and food consumption were daily checked. Upon landing mice were sacrificed, blood parameters measured and tissues dissected for subsequent analysis. To obtain as much information as possible on microgravity-induced tissue modifications, we organized a Tissue Sharing Program: 20 research groups from 6 countries participated. In order to distinguish between possible effects of the MDS housing conditions and effects due to the near-zero gravity environment, a ground replica of the flight experiment was performed at the University of Genova. Control tissues were collected also from mice maintained on Earth in standard vivarium cages.
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.