Simulated microgravity-induced epigenetic changes in human lymphocytes

Kamaleshwar P. Singh, Ragini Kumari, James W. DuMond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Real space flight and modeled microgravity conditions result in changes in the expression of genes that control important cellular functions. However, the mechanisms for microgravity-induced gene expression changes are not clear. The epigenetic changes of DNA methylation and chromatin histones modifications are known to regulate gene expression. The objectives of this study were to investigate whether simulated microgravity alters (a) the DNA methylation and histone acetylation, and (b) the expression of DNMT1, DNMT3a, DNMT3b, and HDAC1 genes that regulate epigenetic events. To achieve these objectives, human T-lymphocyte cells were grown in a rotary cell culture system (RCCS) that simulates microgravity, and in parallel under normal gravitational conditions as control. The microgravity-induced DNA methylation changes were detected by methylation sensitive-random amplified polymorphic DNA (MS-RAPD) analysis of genomic DNA. The gene expression was measured by Quantitative Real-time PCR. The expression of DNMT1, DNMT3a, and DNMT3b was found to be increased at 72 h, and decreased at 7 days in microgravity exposed cells. The MS-RAPD analysis revealed that simulated microgravity exposure results in DNA hypomethylation and mutational changes. Gene expression analysis revealed microgravity exposure time-dependent decreased expression of HDAC1. Decreased expression of HDAC1 should result in increased level of acetylated histone H3, however a decreased level of acetylated H3 was observed in microgravity condition, indicating thereby that other HDACs may be involved in regulation of H3 deacetylation. The findings of this study suggest that epigenetic events could be one of the mechanistic bases for microgravity-induced gene expression changes and associated adverse health effects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-129
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Cellular Biochemistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1 2010


  • DNA methylation
  • DNMT1
  • Epigenetics
  • HDAC1
  • Histone acetylation
  • RAPD
  • Simulated microgravity


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