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Brain Res. 2002 May 3;934(2):132-9.

Clinorotation-induced weightlessness influences the cytoskeleton of glial cells in culture.

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Dipartimento di Biologia Sperimentale, Ambientale ed Applicata, Università di Genova, 5 V.le Benedetto XV, 16132, Genova, Italy.


During and after spaceflight astronauts experience neurophysiological alterations. To investigate if the impairment observed might be traced back to cytomorphology, we undertook a ground based research using a random positioning machine (clinostat) as a simulation method for microgravity. The outcome of the study was represented by cytoskeletal changes occurring in cultured glial cells (C(6) line) after 15 min, 30 min, 1 h, 20 h and 32 h under simulated microgravity. Glia is fundamental for brain function and it is essential for the normal health of the entire nervous system. Our data showed that after 30 min under simulated microgravity the cytoskeleton was damaged: microfilaments (F-actin) and intermediate filaments (Vimentin, Glial Fibrillary Acidic Proteins GFAP) were highly disorganised, microtubules (alpha-tubulin) lost their radial array, the overall cellular shape was deteriorated, and the nuclei showed altered chromatin condensations and DNA fragmentation. This feature got less dramatic after 20 h of simulated microgravity when glial cells appeared to reorganise their cytoskeleton and mitotic figures were present. The research was carried out by immunohistochemistry using antibodies to alpha-tubulin, vimentin and GFAP, and cytochemical labelling of F-actin (Phalloidin-TRIC). The nuclei were stained with propidium iodide or 4,6-diamidino-2-phenylindole dihydrochloride (DAPI). The cells were observed at the conventional and/or the confocal laser scanning microscope. Samples were also observed at the scanning electron microscope (SEM). Our data showed that in weightlessness alterations occur already visible at the scale of the single cell; if this may lead to the neurophysiological problems observed in flight is yet to be established.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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