Although muscle atrophy is a serious problem during spaceflight, little is known about the sequence of molecular events leading to atrophy in response to microgravity. We carried out a spaceflight experiment using Caenorhabditis elegans onboard the Japanese Experiment Module of the International Space Station. Worms were synchronously cultured in liquid media with bacterial food for 4 days under microgravity or on a 1-G centrifuge. Worms were visually observed for health and movement and then frozen. Upon return, we analyzed global gene and protein expression using DNA microarrays and mass spectrometry. Body length and fat accumulation were also analyzed. We found that in worms grown from the L1 larval stage to adulthood under microgravity, both gene and protein expression levels for muscular thick filaments, cytoskeletal elements, and mitochondrial metabolic enzymes decreased relative to parallel cultures on the 1-G centrifuge (95% confidence interval (P ≤ 0.05)). In addition, altered movement and decreased body length and fat accumulation were observed in the microgravity-cultured worms relative to the 1-G cultured worms. These results suggest protein expression changes that may account for the progressive muscular atrophy observed in astronauts.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Medicine (miscellaneous)
- Materials Science (miscellaneous)
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
- Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)
- Space and Planetary Science