Immediate Early Gene Expression in the Vestibular Nuclei and Related Vegetative Areas in Rats During Space Flight
Authors: Pompeiano O.; D'Ascanio P.; Centini C.; Pompeiano M.; Cirelli C.; Tononi G.
Source: Acta Oto-Laryngologica, Volume 121, Supplement 545, 2 July 2001 , pp. 120-126(7)
Publisher: Informa Healthcare
Abstract:Changes in neuronal activity resulting in somatic and vegetative deficits occur during different space flight conditions. Immediate early genes (IEGs: c-fos and Fos-related antigen [FRA]) are useful indicators of changes in neuronal activity and plasticity. They are induced within minutes of several extracellular stimulations, while the corresponding proteins persist for hours (Fos) or days (FRAs). Changes in IEG expression are likely to contribute to adaptation to microgravity and readaptation to the terrestrial environment. During the NASA Neurolab Mission (STS-90), changes in IEG expression were studied in adult male albino rats (Fisher 344) sacrificed at flight day (FD) 2 (24 h after launch), FD14 and at similar time points after re-entry (R + 1, 24 h after re-entry, and R + 13). These time points were chosen to maximize the probability of detecting changes in IEG expression related to changes in gravitational fields occurring during the mission, e.g. (i) increase in gravitational force from 1 to 3g during the launch, before reaching about 0g at FD2; (ii) adaptation to 0g at FD14; (iii) increase in gravity from 0 to 1.5-1.8g before reaching 1g at R + 1; and (iv) readaptation to 1g at R + 13. Fos- and FRA-positive cells were identified in the brainstem of flight rats and ground-based controls using immunocytochemistry. With respect to control rats, the number of labeled cells increased in flight animals in the medial and spinal vestibular nuclei (but not in the lateral vestibular nucleus) at FD2, decreased at FD14, greatly increased at R + 1 and returned to baseline levels at R + 13. Similar changes in IEG expression were also observed in the nucleus of the solitary tract, the area postrema and the central nucleus of the amygdala. In particular, in these vegetative areas the number of Fos-positive cells decreased in flight rats with respect to controls at FD14, i.e. after exposure to 0g, but significantly increased at R + 1, i.e. after return to 1g. Thus, altered gravitational fields produced molecular changes in vestibular nuclei controlling somatic functions, as well as in related medullary and basal forebrain structures regulating vegetative functions.
Document Type: Research article
Publication date: 2001-07-02