Cytoskeletal stability and metabolic alterations in primary human macrophages in long-term microgravity.
Research paper by
Svantje S Tauber, Beatrice A BA Lauber, Katrin K Paulsen, Liliana E LE Layer, Martin M Lehmann, Swantje S Hauschild, Naomi R NR Shepherd, Jennifer J Polzer, Jürgen J Segerer, Cora S CS Thiel, Oliver O Ullrich
The immune system is one of the most affected systems of the human body during space flight. The cells of the immune system are exceptionally sensitive to microgravity. Thus, serious concerns arise, whether space flight associated weakening of the immune system ultimately precludes the expansion of human presence beyond the Earth's orbit. For human space flight, it is an urgent need to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which altered gravity influences and changes the functions of immune cells. The CELLBOX-PRIME (= CellBox-Primary Human Macrophages in Microgravity Environment) experiment investigated for the first time microgravity-associated long-term alterations in primary human macrophages, one of the most important effector cells of the immune system. The experiment was conducted in the U.S. National Laboratory on board of the International Space Station ISS using the NanoRacks laboratory and Biorack type I standard CELLBOX EUE type IV containers. Upload and download were performed with the SpaceX CRS-3 and the Dragon spaceship on April 18th, 2014 / May 18th, 2014. Surprisingly, primary human macrophages exhibited neither quantitative nor structural changes of the actin and vimentin cytoskeleton after 11 days in microgravity when compared to 1g controls. Neither CD18 or CD14 surface expression were altered in microgravity, however ICAM-1 expression was reduced. The analysis of 74 metabolites in the cell culture supernatant by GC-TOF-MS, revealed eight metabolites with significantly different quantities when compared to 1g controls. In particular, the significant increase of free fucose in the cell culture supernatant was associated with a significant decrease of cell surface-bound fucose. The reduced ICAM-1 expression and the loss of cell surface-bound fucose may contribute to functional impairments, e.g. the activation of T cells, migration and activation of the innate immune response. We assume that the surprisingly small and non-significant cytoskeletal alterations represent a stable "steady state" after adaptive processes are initiated in the new microgravity environment. Due to the utmost importance of the human macrophage system for the elimination of pathogens and the clearance of apoptotic cells, its apparent robustness to a low gravity environment is crucial for human health and performance during long-term space missions.