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Am J Physiol. 1994 Dec;267(6 Pt 1):E822-7.

Altered skeletal pattern of gene expression in response to spaceflight and hindlimb elevation.

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Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco.
U CA, San Francisco


Spaceflight leads to osteopenia, in part by inhibiting bone formation. Using an animal model (hindlimb elevation) that simulates the weightlessness of spaceflight, we and others showed a reversible inhibition of bone formation and bone mineralization. In this study, we have measured the mRNA levels of insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I), IGF-I receptor (IGF-IR), alkaline phosphatase, and osteocalcin in the tibiae of rats flown aboard National Aeronautics and Space Administration Shuttle Flight STS-54 and compared the results with those obtained from their ground-based controls and from the bones of hindlimb-elevated animals. Spaceflight and hindlimb elevation transiently increase the mRNA levels for IGF-I, IGF-IR, and alkaline phosphatase but decrease the mRNA levels for osteocalcin. The changes in osteocalcin and alkaline phosphatase mRNA levels are consistent with a shift toward decreased maturation, whereas the rise in IGF-I and IGF-IR mRNA levels may indicate a compensatory response to the fall in bone formation. We conclude that skeletal unloading during spaceflight or hindlimb elevation resets the pattern of gene expression in the osteoblast, giving it a less mature profile.

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