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1.  Spaceflight Transcriptomes: Unique Responses to a Novel Environment 
Astrobiology  2012;12(1):40-56.
The spaceflight environment presents unique challenges to terrestrial biology, including but not limited to the direct effects of gravity. As we near the end of the Space Shuttle era, there remain fundamental questions about the response and adaptation of plants to orbital spaceflight conditions. We address a key baseline question of whether gene expression changes are induced by the orbital environment, and then we ask whether undifferentiated cells, cells presumably lacking the typical gravity response mechanisms, perceive spaceflight. Arabidopsis seedlings and undifferentiated cultured Arabidopsis cells were launched in April, 2010, as part of the BRIC-16 flight experiment on STS-131. Biologically replicated DNA microarray and averaged RNA digital transcript profiling revealed several hundred genes in seedlings and cell cultures that were significantly affected by launch and spaceflight. The response was moderate in seedlings; only a few genes were induced by more than 7-fold, and the overall intrinsic expression level for most differentially expressed genes was low. In contrast, cell cultures displayed a more dramatic response, with dozens of genes showing this level of differential expression, a list comprised primarily of heat shock–related and stress-related genes. This baseline transcriptome profiling of seedlings and cultured cells confirms the fundamental hypothesis that survival of the spaceflight environment requires adaptive changes that are both governed and displayed by alterations in gene expression. The comparison of intact plants with cultures of undifferentiated cells confirms a second hypothesis: undifferentiated cells can detect spaceflight in the absence of specialized tissue or organized developmental structures known to detect gravity. Key Words: Tissue culture—Microgravity—Low Earth orbit—Space Shuttle—Microarray. Astrobiology 12, 40–56.
PMCID: PMC3264962  PMID: 22221117
2.  Microgravity as a Novel Environmental Signal Affecting Salmonella enterica Serovar Typhimurium Virulence 
Infection and Immunity  2000;68(6):3147-3152.
The effects of spaceflight on the infectious disease process have only been studied at the level of the host immune response and indicate a blunting of the immune mechanism in humans and animals. Accordingly, it is necessary to assess potential changes in microbial virulence associated with spaceflight which may impact the probability of in-flight infectious disease. In this study, we investigated the effect of altered gravitational vectors on Salmonella virulence in mice. Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium grown under modeled microgravity (MMG) were more virulent and were recovered in higher numbers from the murine spleen and liver following oral infection compared to organisms grown under normal gravity. Furthermore, MMG-grown salmonellae were more resistant to acid stress and macrophage killing and exhibited significant differences in protein synthesis than did normal-gravity-grown cells. Our results indicate that the environment created by simulated microgravity represents a novel environmental regulatory factor of Salmonella virulence.
PMCID: PMC97548  PMID: 10816456
3.  Organ-specific remodeling of the Arabidopsis transcriptome in response to spaceflight 
BMC Plant Biology  2013;13:112.
Spaceflight presents a novel environment that is outside the evolutionary experience of terrestrial organisms. Full activation of the International Space Station as a science platform complete with sophisticated plant growth chambers, laboratory benches, and procedures for effective sample return, has enabled a new level of research capability and hypothesis testing in this unique environment. The opportunity to examine the strategies of environmental sensing in spaceflight, which includes the absence of unit gravity, provides a unique insight into the balance of influence among abiotic cues directing plant growth and development: including gravity, light, and touch. The data presented here correlate morphological and transcriptome data from replicated spaceflight experiments.
The transcriptome of Arabidopsis thaliana demonstrated organ-specific changes in response to spaceflight, with 480 genes showing significant changes in expression in spaceflight plants compared with ground controls by at least 1.9-fold, and 58 by more than 7-fold. Leaves, hypocotyls, and roots each displayed unique patterns of response, yet many gene functions within the responses are related. Particularly represented across the dataset were genes associated with cell architecture and growth hormone signaling; processes that would not be anticipated to be altered in microgravity yet may correlate with morphological changes observed in spaceflight plants. As examples, differential expression of genes involved with touch, cell wall remodeling, root hairs, and cell expansion may correlate with spaceflight-associated root skewing, while differential expression of auxin-related and other gravity-signaling genes seemingly correlates with the microgravity of spaceflight. Although functionally related genes were differentially represented in leaves, hypocotyls, and roots, the expression of individual genes varied substantially across organ types, indicating that there is no single response to spaceflight. Rather, each organ employed its own response tactics within a shared strategy, largely involving cell wall architecture.
Spaceflight appears to initiate cellular remodeling throughout the plant, yet specific strategies of the response are distinct among specific organs of the plant. Further, these data illustrate that in the absence of gravity plants rely on other environmental cues to initiate the morphological responses essential to successful growth and development, and that the basis for that engagement lies in the differential expression of genes in an organ-specific manner that maximizes the utilization of these signals – such as the up-regulation of genes associated with light-sensing in roots.
PMCID: PMC3750915  PMID: 23919896
4.  Expression of stress-related genes in zebrawood (Astronium fraxinifolium, Anacardiaceae) seedlings following germination in microgravity 
Genetics and Molecular Biology  2013;37(1):81-92.
Seeds of a tropical tree species from Brazil, Astronium fraxinifolium, or zebrawood, were germinated, for the first time in microgravity, aboard the International Space Station for nine days. Following three days of subsequent growth under normal terrestrial gravitational conditions, greater root length and numbers of secondary roots was observed in the microgravity-treated seedlings compared to terrestrially germinated controls. Suppression subtractive hybridization of cDNA and EST analysis were used to detect differential gene expression in the microgravity-treated seedlings in comparison to those initially grown in normal gravity (forward subtraction). Despite their return to, and growth in normal gravity, the subtracted library derived from microgravity-treated seedlings was enriched in known microgravity stress-related ESTs, corresponding to large and small heat shock proteins, 14-3-3-like protein, polyubiquitin, and proteins involved in glutathione metabolism. In contrast, the reverse-subtracted library contained a comparatively greater variety of general metabolism-related ESTs, but was also enriched for peroxidase, possibly indicating the suppression of this protein in the microgravity-treated seedlings. Following continued growth for 30 days, higher concentrations of total chlorophyll were detected in the microgravity-exposed seedlings.
PMCID: PMC3958331
microgravity; stress response; germination; suppression subtractive hybridization; zebrawood
5.  Plant growth strategies are remodeled by spaceflight 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:232.
Arabidopsis plants were grown on the International Space Station within specialized hardware that combined a plant growth habitat with a camera system that can capture images at regular intervals of growth. The Imaging hardware delivers telemetric data from the ISS, specifically images received in real-time from experiments on orbit, providing science without sample return. Comparable Ground Controls were grown in a sister unit that is maintained in the Orbital Environment Simulator at Kennedy Space Center. One of many types of biological data that can be analyzed in this fashion is root morphology. Arabidopsis seeds were geminated on orbit on nutrient gel Petri plates in a configuration that encouraged growth along the surface of the gel. Photos were taken every six hours for the 15 days of the experiment.
In the absence of gravity, but the presence of directional light, spaceflight roots remained strongly negatively phototropic and grew in the opposite direction of the shoot growth; however, cultivars WS and Col-0 displayed two distinct, marked differences in their growth patterns. First, cultivar WS skewed strongly to the right on orbit, while cultivar Col-0 grew with little deviation away from the light source. Second, the Spaceflight environment also impacted the rate of growth in Arabidopsis. The size of the Flight plants (as measured by primary root and hypocotyl length) was uniformly smaller than comparably aged Ground Control plants in both cultivars.
Skewing and waving, thought to be gravity dependent phenomena, occur in spaceflight plants. In the presence of an orienting light source, phenotypic trends in skewing are gravity independent, and the general patterns of directional root growth typified by a given genotype in unit gravity are recapitulated on orbit, although overall growth patterns on orbit are less uniform. Skewing appears independent of axial orientation on the ISS – suggesting that other tropisms (such as for oxygen and temperature) do not influence skewing. An aspect of the spaceflight environment also retards the rate of early Arabidopsis growth.
PMCID: PMC3556330  PMID: 23217113
6.  Effects of Low-Shear Modeled Microgravity on Cell Function, Gene Expression, and Phenotype in Saccharomyces cerevisiae 
Only limited information is available concerning the effects of low-shear modeled microgravity (LSMMG) on cell function and morphology. We examined the behavior of Saccharomyces cerevisiae grown in a high-aspect-ratio vessel, which simulates the low-shear and microgravity conditions encountered in spaceflight. With the exception of a shortened lag phase (90 min less than controls; P < 0.05), yeast cells grown under LSMMG conditions did not differ in growth rate, size, shape, or viability from the controls but did differ in the establishment of polarity as exhibited by aberrant (random) budding compared to the usual bipolar pattern of controls. The aberrant budding was accompanied by an increased tendency of cells to clump, as indicated by aggregates containing five or more cells. We also found significant changes (greater than or equal to twofold) in the expression of genes associated with the establishment of polarity (BUD5), bipolar budding (RAX1, RAX2, and BUD25), and cell separation (DSE1, DSE2, and EGT2). Thus, low-shear environments may significantly alter yeast gene expression and phenotype as well as evolutionary conserved cellular functions such as polarization. The results provide a paradigm for understanding polarity-dependent cell responses to microgravity ranging from pathogenesis in fungi to the immune response in mammals.
PMCID: PMC1489333  PMID: 16820445
7.  Meristematic cell proliferation and ribosome biogenesis are decoupled in diamagnetically levitated Arabidopsis seedlings 
BMC Plant Biology  2013;13:124.
Cell growth and cell proliferation are intimately linked in the presence of Earth’s gravity, but are decoupled under the microgravity conditions present in orbiting spacecraft. New technologies to simulate microgravity conditions for long-duration experiments, with stable environmental conditions, in Earth-based laboratories are required to further our understanding of the effect of extraterrestrial conditions on the growth, development and health of living matter.
We studied the response of transgenic seedlings of Arabidopsis thaliana, containing either the CycB1-GUS proliferation marker or the DR5-GUS auxin-mediated growth marker, to diamagnetic levitation in the bore of a superconducting solenoid magnet. As a control, a second set of seedlings were exposed to a strong magnetic field, but not to levitation forces. A third set was exposed to a strong field and simulated hypergravity (2 g). Cell proliferation and cell growth cytological parameters were measured for each set of seedlings. Nucleolin immunodetection was used as a marker of cell growth. Collectively, the data indicate that these two fundamental cellular processes are decoupled in root meristems, as in microgravity: cell proliferation was enhanced whereas cell growth markers were depleted. These results also demonstrated delocalisation of auxin signalling in the root tip despite the fact that levitation of the seedling as a whole does not prevent the sedimentation of statoliths in the root cells.
In our model system, we found that diamagnetic levitation led to changes that are very similar to those caused by real- [e.g. on board the International Space Station (ISS)] or mechanically-simulated microgravity [e.g. using a Random Positioning Machine (RPM)]. These changes decoupled meristematic cell proliferation from ribosome biogenesis, and altered auxin polar transport.
PMCID: PMC3847623  PMID: 24006876
8.  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.
PMCID: PMC3067220  PMID: 21169425
9.  Ground-Based Facilities for Simulation of Microgravity: Organism-Specific Recommendations for Their Use, and Recommended Terminology 
Astrobiology  2013;13(1):1-17.
Research in microgravity is indispensable to disclose the impact of gravity on biological processes and organisms. However, research in the near-Earth orbit is severely constrained by the limited number of flight opportunities. Ground-based simulators of microgravity are valuable tools for preparing spaceflight experiments, but they also facilitate stand-alone studies and thus provide additional and cost-efficient platforms for gravitational research. The various microgravity simulators that are frequently used by gravitational biologists are based on different physical principles. This comparative study gives an overview of the most frequently used microgravity simulators and demonstrates their individual capacities and limitations. The range of applicability of the various ground-based microgravity simulators for biological specimens was carefully evaluated by using organisms that have been studied extensively under the conditions of real microgravity in space. In addition, current heterogeneous terminology is discussed critically, and recommendations are given for appropriate selection of adequate simulators and consistent use of nomenclature. Key Words: 2-D clinostat—3-D clinostat—Gravity—Magnetic levitation—Random positioning machine—Simulated microgravity—Space biology. Astrobiology 13, 1–17.
PMCID: PMC3549630  PMID: 23252378
10.  Xylem Development and Cell Wall Changes of Soybean Seedlings Grown in Space 
Annals of Botany  2008;101(5):661-669.
Background and Aims
Plants growing in altered gravity conditions encounter changes in vascular development and cell wall deposition. The aim of this study was to investigate xylem anatomy and arrangement of cellulose microfibrils in vessel walls of different organs of soybean seedlings grown in Space.
Seeds germinated and seedlings grew for 5 d in Space during the Foton-M2 mission. The environmental conditions, other than gravity, of the ground control repeated those experienced in orbit. The seedlings developed in space were compared with those of the control test on the basis of numerous anatomical and ultrastructural parameters such as number of veins, size and shape of vessel lumens, thickness of cell walls and deposition of cellulose microfibrils.
Key Results
Observations made with light, fluorescence and transmission electron microscopy, together with the quantification of the structural features through digital image analysis, showed that the alterations due to microgravity do not occur at the same level in the various organs of soybean seedlings. The modifications induced by microgravity or by the indirect effect of space-flight conditions, became conspicuous only in developing vessels at the ultrastructural level. The results suggested that the orientation of microfibrils and their assembly in developing vessels are perturbed by microgravity at the beginning of wall deposition, while they are still able to orient and arrange in thicker and ordered structures at later stages of secondary wall deposition.
The process of proper cell-wall building, although not prevented, is perturbed in Space at the early stage of development. This would explain the almost unaltered anatomy of mature structures, accompanied by a slower growth observed in seedlings grown in Space than on Earth.
PMCID: PMC2710186  PMID: 18252765
Cell wall; cellulose microfibrils; Glycine max; microgravity; soybean seedlings; space; xylem anatomy
11.  Studies on Culture and Osteogenic Induction of Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells under CO2-Independent Conditions 
Astrobiology  2013;13(4):370-379.
Human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) are one of the important factors that regulate bone anabolism. Osteoporosis resulting from microgravity during spaceflight may possibly be due to a decrease in osteogenesis mediated by hMSCs. This speculation should be verified through culture and osteogenic induction of hMSCs in a microgravity environment during spaceflight. Control of CO2 is a key component in current experimental protocols for growth, survival, and proliferation of in vitro cultured cells. However, carrying CO2 tanks on a spaceflight and devoting space/mass allowances for classical CO2 control protocols make experimentation on culture and osteogenesis difficult during most missions. Therefore, an experimental culture and osteogenic medium was developed through modifying the components of buffer salts in conventional culture medium. This experimental medium was used to culture and induce hMSCs under CO2-independent conditions. The results showed that culture and induction of hMSCs with conventional culture medium and conventional osteogenic medium under CO2-independent conditions resulted in an increase of pH in medium. The proliferation of hMSCs was also inhibited. hMSCs cultured with experimental culture medium under CO2-independent conditions showed a proliferation potential that was the same as those cultured with conventional culture medium under CO2-dependent conditions. The experimental osteogenic medium could promote hMSCs to differentiate into osteoblast-like cells under CO2-independent conditions. Cells induced by this induction system showed high alkaline phosphatase activity. The expression levels of osteogenic genes in cells induced with experimental osteogenic medium under CO2-independent conditions were not significantly different from those cells induced with conventional osteogenic medium under CO2-dependent conditions. These results suggest that the experimental culture and induction system could be used to culture hMSCs and induce the osteogenesis of hMSCs in the atmospheric conditions common to spaceflights without additional CO2. Key Words: hMSCs—CO2-independent culture—Osteogenic differentiation—Proliferation. Astrobiology 13, 370–379.
PMCID: PMC3634141  PMID: 23577816
12.  Study protocol to examine the effects of spaceflight and a spaceflight analog on neurocognitive performance: extent, longevity, and neural bases 
BMC Neurology  2013;13:205.
Long duration spaceflight (i.e., 22 days or longer) has been associated with changes in sensorimotor systems, resulting in difficulties that astronauts experience with posture control, locomotion, and manual control. The microgravity environment is an important causal factor for spaceflight induced sensorimotor changes. Whether spaceflight also affects other central nervous system functions such as cognition is yet largely unknown, but of importance in consideration of the health and performance of crewmembers both in- and post-flight. We are therefore conducting a controlled prospective longitudinal study to investigate the effects of spaceflight on the extent, longevity and neural bases of sensorimotor and cognitive performance changes. Here we present the protocol of our study.
This study includes three groups (astronauts, bed rest subjects, ground-based control subjects) for which each the design is single group with repeated measures. The effects of spaceflight on the brain will be investigated in astronauts who will be assessed at two time points pre-, at three time points during-, and at four time points following a spaceflight mission of six months. To parse out the effect of microgravity from the overall effects of spaceflight, we investigate the effects of seventy days head-down tilted bed rest. Bed rest subjects will be assessed at two time points before-, two time points during-, and three time points post-bed rest. A third group of ground based controls will be measured at four time points to assess reliability of our measures over time. For all participants and at all time points, except in flight, measures of neurocognitive performance, fine motor control, gait, balance, structural MRI (T1, DTI), task fMRI, and functional connectivity MRI will be obtained. In flight, astronauts will complete some of the tasks that they complete pre- and post flight, including tasks measuring spatial working memory, sensorimotor adaptation, and fine motor performance. Potential changes over time and associations between cognition, motor-behavior, and brain structure and function will be analyzed.
This study explores how spaceflight induced brain changes impact functional performance. This understanding could aid in the design of targeted countermeasures to mitigate the negative effects of long-duration spaceflight.
PMCID: PMC3878338  PMID: 24350728
Space flight; Astronauts; Microgravity; Sensorimotor feedback; Cognition; Neuroimaging; MRI; Longitudinal studies; Bed rest
13.  The Effect of Spaceflight on Growth of Ulocladium chartarum Colonies on the International Space Station 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e62130.
The objectives of this 14 days experiment were to investigate the effect of spaceflight on the growth of Ulocladium chartarum, to study the viability of the aerial and submerged mycelium and to put in evidence changes at the cellular level. U. chartarum was chosen for the spaceflight experiment because it is well known to be involved in biodeterioration of organic and inorganic substrates covered with organic deposits and expected to be a possible contaminant in Spaceships. Colonies grown on the International Space Station (ISS) and on Earth were analysed post-flight. This study clearly indicates that U. chartarum is able to grow under spaceflight conditions developing, as a response, a complex colony morphotype never mentioned previously. We observed that spaceflight reduced the rate of growth of aerial mycelium, but stimulated the growth of submerged mycelium and of new microcolonies. In Spaceships and Space Stations U. chartarum and other fungal species could find a favourable environment to grow invasively unnoticed in the depth of surfaces containing very small amount of substrate, posing a risk factor for biodegradation of structural components, as well as a direct threat for crew health. The colony growth cycle of U. chartarum provides a useful eukaryotic system for the study of fungal growth under spaceflight conditions.
PMCID: PMC3634740  PMID: 23637980
14.  Innate Immune Responses of Drosophila melanogaster Are Altered by Spaceflight 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(1):e15361.
Alterations and impairment of immune responses in humans present a health risk for space exploration missions. The molecular mechanisms underpinning innate immune defense can be confounded by the complexity of the acquired immune system of humans. Drosophila (fruit fly) innate immunity is simpler, and shares many similarities with human innate immunity at the level of molecular and genetic pathways. The goals of this study were to elucidate fundamental immune processes in Drosophila affected by spaceflight and to measure host-pathogen responses post-flight. Five containers, each containing ten female and five male fruit flies, were housed and bred on the space shuttle (average orbit altitude of 330.35 km) for 12 days and 18.5 hours. A new generation of flies was reared in microgravity. In larvae, the immune system was examined by analyzing plasmatocyte number and activity in culture. In adults, the induced immune responses were analyzed by bacterial clearance and quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) of selected genes following infection with E. coli. The RNA levels of relevant immune pathway genes were determined in both larvae and adults by microarray analysis. The ability of larval plasmatocytes to phagocytose E. coli in culture was attenuated following spaceflight, and in parallel, the expression of genes involved in cell maturation was downregulated. In addition, the level of constitutive expression of pattern recognition receptors and opsonins that specifically recognize bacteria, and of lysozymes, antimicrobial peptide (AMP) pathway and immune stress genes, hallmarks of humoral immunity, were also reduced in larvae. In adults, the efficiency of bacterial clearance measured in vivo following a systemic infection with E. coli post-flight, remained robust. We show that spaceflight altered both cellular and humoral immune responses in Drosophila and that the disruption occurs at multiple interacting pathways.
PMCID: PMC3019151  PMID: 21264297
15.  The Mice Drawer System (MDS) Experiment and the Space Endurance Record-Breaking Mice 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e32243.
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 28th, 2009. MDS returned to Earth on November 27th, 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.
PMCID: PMC3362598  PMID: 22666312
16.  Microgravity Induces Changes in Microsome-Associated Proteins of Arabidopsis Seedlings Grown on Board the International Space Station 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e91814.
The “GENARA A” experiment was designed to monitor global changes in the proteome of membranes of Arabidopsis thaliana seedlings subjected to microgravity on board the International Space Station (ISS). For this purpose, 12-day-old seedlings were grown either in space, in the European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS) under microgravity or on a 1 g centrifuge, or on the ground. Proteins associated to membranes were selectively extracted from microsomes and identified and quantified through LC-MS-MS using a label-free method. Among the 1484 proteins identified and quantified in the 3 conditions mentioned above, 80 membrane-associated proteins were significantly more abundant in seedlings grown under microgravity in space than under 1 g (space and ground) and 69 were less abundant. Clustering of these proteins according to their predicted function indicates that proteins associated to auxin metabolism and trafficking were depleted in the microsomal fraction in µg space conditions, whereas proteins associated to stress responses, defence and metabolism were more abundant in µg than in 1 g indicating that microgravity is perceived by plants as a stressful environment. These results clearly indicate that a global membrane proteomics approach gives a snapshot of the cell status and its signaling activity in response to microgravity and highlight the major processes affected.
PMCID: PMC3950288  PMID: 24618597
17.  Orbital Spaceflight During Pregnancy Shapes Function of Mammalian Vestibular System 
Behavioral neuroscience  2008;122(1):224-232.
Pregnant rats were flown on the NASA Space Shuttle during the early developmental period of their fetuses’ vestibular apparatus and onset of vestibular function. The authors report that prenatal spaceflight exposure shapes vestibular-mediated behavior and central morphology. Postflight testing revealed (a) delayed onset of body righting responses, (b) cardiac deceleration (bradycardia) to 70° head-up roll, (c) decreased branching of gravistatic afferent axons, but (d) no change in branching of angular acceleration receptor projections with comparable synaptogenesis of the medial vestibular nucleus in flight relative to control fetuses. Kinematic analyses of the dams’ on-orbit behavior suggest that, although the fetal otolith organs are unloaded in microgravity, the fetus’ semicircular canals receive high levels of stimulation during longitudinal rotations of the mother’s weightless body. Behaviorally derived stimulation from maternal movements may be a significant factor in studies of vestibular sensory development. Taken together, these studies provide evidence that gravity and angular acceleration shape prenatal organization and function within the mammalian vestibular system.
PMCID: PMC2610337  PMID: 18298265
microgravity; development; fetus; maternal; otoliths
18.  Microbial Responses to Microgravity and Other Low-Shear Environments 
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.
PMCID: PMC419922  PMID: 15187188
19.  Seedling Diversity and the Homologies of Seedling Organs in the Order Poales (Monocotyledons) 
Annals of Botany  2007;100(7):1413-1429.
Background and Aims
Seedlings of monocots are much more diverse than those of other angiosperms, often with very derived character states. This makes morphological interpretation difficult. The morphology of seedlings of most of the 16 families of the Poales alliance are only incompletely known. The present study aims first to develop an unambiguous terminology for the description of monocotyledonous seedlings. This makes possible clear morphological comparisons and the use of homologous terms for organs. Finally, plotting of well defined characters onto a molecular tree allows the polarization of character states.
Seedlings were grown in Petri dishes on moist filter paper under permanent light conditions and analysed using light and scanning electron microscopy. Only seeds collected at natural habitats or from plants with a well documented source were used. Seedling vouchers are deposited in the alcohol collection of Monocot seedlings in the Botanische Staatssammlung München (M).
Key Results
Based on an unambiguous terminology, seedlings of a great number of genera are described and presented as figures, representing all families of Poales except Ecdeiocoleaceae. Seedlings of Rapateaceae, Joinvilleaceae and Mayacaceae are described for the first time. Morphological comparisons reveal a plausible interpretation of even very modified organ structures, including those of the grass seedling.
This study demonstrates that detailed studies of seedling morphology can provide interesting morphological insights and also new facts for phylogenetic analyses. However, the morphological diversity of seedlings in the monocots is as yet incompletely known, and in some, e.g. Alismatales or Zingiberales, the seedling structure is particularly poorly understood in terms of comparative morphology.
PMCID: PMC2759217  PMID: 17933843
Cotyledon; grass embryo; grass seedling; monocotyledons; organ homology; Poales; seedling glossary
20.  Media Ion Composition Controls Regulatory and Virulence Response of Salmonella in Spaceflight 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(12):e3923.
The spaceflight environment is relevant to conditions encountered by pathogens during the course of infection and induces novel changes in microbial pathogenesis not observed using conventional methods. It is unclear how microbial cells sense spaceflight-associated changes to their growth environment and orchestrate corresponding changes in molecular and physiological phenotypes relevant to the infection process. Here we report that spaceflight-induced increases in Salmonella virulence are regulated by media ion composition, and that phosphate ion is sufficient to alter related pathogenesis responses in a spaceflight analogue model. Using whole genome microarray and proteomic analyses from two independent Space Shuttle missions, we identified evolutionarily conserved molecular pathways in Salmonella that respond to spaceflight under all media compositions tested. Identification of conserved regulatory paradigms opens new avenues to control microbial responses during the infection process and holds promise to provide an improved understanding of human health and disease on Earth.
PMCID: PMC2592540  PMID: 19079590
21.  Gravitational force modulates G2/M phase exit in mechanically unloaded myoblasts 
Cell Cycle  2013;12(18):3001-3012.
Prolonged spaceflight gives rise to muscle loss and reduced strength, a condition commonly referred to as space atrophy. During exposure to microgravity, skeletal muscle myoblasts are mechanically unloaded and respond with attenuated cell proliferation, slowed cell cycle progression, and modified protein expression. To elucidate the underlying mechanisms by which muscle mass declines in response to prolonged microgravity exposure, we grew C2C12 mouse muscle cells under conditions of simulated microgravity (SM) and analyzed their proliferative capacity, cell cycle progression, and cyclin B and D expression. We demonstrated that the retarded cell growth observed in SM was correlated with an approximate 16 h delay in G2/M phase progression, where cells accumulated specifically between the G2 checkpoint and the onset of anaphase, concomitantly with a positive expression for cyclin B. The effect was specific for gravitational mechanical unloading as cells grown under conditions of hypergravity (HG, 4 g) for similar durations of time exhibited normal proliferation and normal cell cycle progression. Our results show that SM and HG exert phenomenological distinct responses over cell cycle progression. The deficits of SM can be restored by terrestrial gravitational force, whereas the effects of HG are indistinguishable from the 1 g control. This suggests that the mechanotransduction apparatus of cells responds differently to mechanical unloading and loading.
PMCID: PMC3875675  PMID: 23974110
mechanotransduction; muscle atrophy; cell cycle; cyclins; microgravity; hypergravity; mechanical unloading
22.  Ionizing Radiation and Bone Loss: Space Exploration and Clinical Therapy Applications 
Damage to normal, nontumor bone tissue following therapeutic irradiation increases the risk of fracture among cancer patients. For example, women treated for various pelvic tumors have been shown to have a greater than 65% increased incidence of hip fracture by 5 years postradiotherapy. Another practical situation in which exposure to ionizing radiation may negatively impact skeletal integrity is during extended spaceflight missions. There is a limited understanding of how spaceflight-relevant doses and types of radiation can influence astronaut bone health, particularly when combined with the significant effects of mechanical unloading experienced in microgravity. Historically, negative effects on osteoblasts have been studied. Radiation exposure has been shown to damage osteoblast precursors. Damage to local vasculature has been observed, ranging from decreased lumen diameter to complete ablation within the irradiated volume, causing a state of hypoxia. These effects result in suppression of bone formation and a general state of low bone turnover. More recently, however, we have demonstrated in pre-clinical mouse models, a very rapid but transient increase in osteoclast activity after exposure to spaceflight and clinically relevant radiation doses. Combined with long-term suppression of bone formation, this skeletal damage may cause long-term deficits. This review will present a broad set of literature outlining our current set knowledge of both clinical therapy and space exploration exposure to ionizing radiation. Additionally, we will discuss prevention of the initial osteoclast-mediated bone loss, the need to promote normal bone turnover and long-term quality of bone tissue, and our hypothesized molecular mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC3401480  PMID: 22826690
Osteoporosis; Fracture; Ionizing radiation; Radiation therapy; Spaceflight; Microgravity; Space radiation; Osteoclasts; Bone; Inflammation
23.  Space Radiation and Bone Loss 
Exposure to ionizing radiation may negatively impact skeletal integrity during extended spaceflight missions to the moon, Mars, or near-Earth asteroids. However, our understanding of the effects of radiation on bone is limited when compared to the effects of weightlessness. In addition to microgravity, astronauts will be exposed to space radiation from solar and cosmic sources. Historically, radiation exposure has been shown to damage both osteoblast precursors and local vasculature within the irradiated volume. The resulting suppression of bone formation and a general state of low bone-turnover is thought to be the primary contributor to bone loss and eventual fracture. Recent investigations using mouse models have identified a rapid, but transient, increase in osteoclast activity immediately after irradiation with both spaceflight and clinically-relevant radiation qualities and doses. Together with a chronic suppression of bone formation after radiation exposure, this acute skeletal damage may contribute to long-term deterioration of bone quality, potentially increasing fracture risk. Direct evidence for the damaging effects of radiation on human bone are primarily demonstrated by the increased incidence of fractures at sites that absorb high doses of radiation during cancer therapy: exposures are considerably higher than what could be expected during spaceflight. However, both the rapidity of bone damage and the chronic nature of the changes appear similar between exposure scenarios. This review will outline our current knowledge of space and clinical exploration exposure to ionizing radiation on skeletal health.
PMCID: PMC3401484  PMID: 22826632
osteoporosis; fracture; ionizing radiation; radiation therapy; spaceflight; microgravity; space radiation; osteoclasts; bone; inflammation
24.  Low-Shear Modeled Microgravity Enhances Salmonella Enterica Resistance to Hydrogen Peroxide Through a Mechanism Involving KatG and KatN 
Studies carried out in recent years have established that growth under conditions of reduced gravity enhances Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium virulence. To analyze the possibility that this microgravity-induced increase in pathogenicity could involve alterations in the ability of Salmonella to withstand oxidative stress, we have compared the resistance to hydrogen peroxide of various Salmonella enterica strains grown under conditions of low shear modeled microgravity (LSMMG) or normal gravity (NG). We have found that growth in LSMMG significantly enhances hydrogen peroxide resistance of all the strains analyzed. This effect is abolished by deletion of the genes encoding for the catalases KatG and KatN, whose activity is markedly modulated by growth in LSMMG. In addition, we have observed that Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium strains lacking Hfq, RpoE, RpoS or OxyR are still more resistant to oxidative stress when grown in LSMMG than in NG conditions, indicating that these global gene regulators are not responsible for the microgravity-induced changes in KatG and KatN activity. As Salmonella likely encounters low shear conditions in the intestinal tract, our observations suggest that alterations in the relative activity of KatG and KatN could enhance Salmonella resistance to the reactive oxygen species produced also during natural infections.
PMCID: PMC3414715  PMID: 22888375
Hydrogen peroxide resistance; Catalase; Microgravity; Bacterial virulence; Salmonella; HARV Bioreactor.
25.  Effect of Simulated Microgravity on E. coli K12 MG1655 Growth and Gene Expression 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e57860.
This study demonstrates the effects of simulated microgravity on E. coli K 12 MG1655 grown on LB medium supplemented with glycerol. Global gene expression analysis indicated that the expressions of hundred genes were significantly altered in simulated microgravity conditions compared to that of normal gravity conditions. Under these conditions genes coding for adaptation to stress are up regulated (sufE and ssrA) and simultaneously genes coding for membrane transporters (ompC, exbB, actP, mgtA, cysW and nikB) and carbohydrate catabolic processes (ldcC, ptsA, rhaD and rhaS) are down regulated. The enhanced growth in simulated gravity conditions may be because of the adequate supply of energy/reducing equivalents and up regulation of genes involved in DNA replication (srmB) and repression of the genes encoding for nucleoside metabolism (dfp, pyrD and spoT). In addition, E. coli cultured in LB medium supplemented with glycerol (so as to protect the cells from freezing temperatures) do not exhibit multiple stress responses that are normally observed when cells are exposed to microgravity in LB medium without glycerol.
PMCID: PMC3589462  PMID: 23472115

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