The effect of simulated microgravity on DNA damage and apoptosis is still controversial. The objective of this study was to test whether simulated microgravity conditions affect the expression of genes for DNA repair and apoptosis. To achieve this objective, human lymphocyte cells were grown in a NASA-developed rotating wall vessel (RWV) bioreactor that simulates microgravity. The same cell line was grown in parallel under normal gravitational conditions in culture flasks. The effect of microgravity on the expression of genes was measured by quantitative real-time PCR while DNA damage was examined by comet assay. The result of this study revealed that exposure to simulated microgravity condition decreases the expression of DNA repair genes. Mismatch repair (MMR) class of DNA repair pathway were more susceptible to microgravity condition-induced gene expression changes than base excision repair (BER) and nucleotide excision repair (NER) class of DNA repair genes. Downregulation of genes involved in cell proliferation (CyclinD1 and PCNA) and apoptosis (Bax) was also observed. Microgravity-induced changes in the expression of some of these genes were further verified at the protein level by Western blot analysis. The findings of this study suggest that microgravity may induce alterations in the expression of these DNA repair genes resulting in accumulation of DNA damage. Reduced expression of cell-cycle genes suggests that microgravity may cause a reduction in cell growth. Downregulation of pro-apoptotic genes further suggests that extended exposure to microgravity may result in a reduction in the cells' ability to undergo apoptosis. Any resistance to apoptosis seen in cells with damaged DNA may eventually lead to malignant transformation of those cells.
- DNA damage
- DNA repair