Spaceflight results in reduced mRNA levels for tissue-specific proteins in the musculoskeletal system

P. Backup, K. Westerlind, S. Harris, T. Spelsberg, B. Kline, R. Turner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


The purpose of the present study in growing rats was to investigate the effects of short-term spaceflight on gene expression in bone and muscle and on cortical bone histomorphometry. Two experiments were carried out; Physiological Systems Experiments 1 and 2 were 4- and 10-day flights, respectively. Radial bone growth in the humerus was unchanged during the 4- day flight and decreased during the 10-day flight. Expression of mRNA for glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase was unchanged in biceps, calvarial periosteum, and long-bone periosteum after spaceflight. Similarly, no changes in ribosomal RNA levels were observed in long-bone or calvarial periosteum after spaceflight. In contrast, spaceflight decreased steady-state mRNA levels for actin in muscle (4-day flight). Osteocalcin (both spaceflights) and the prepro-α2[I] chain of type I precollagen (10-day flight) mRNA levels were decreased in long-bone and calvarial periosteum after spaceflight. These results indicate that the effects of spaceflight on the musculoskeletal system include decreased expression of some muscle- and bone-specific genes as well as decreased bone formation. Interestingly, detectable reductions in gene expression for bone matrix proteins preceded histological evidence for decreased bone formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E567-E573
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number4 29-4
StatePublished - 1994


  • Northern blot analysis
  • bone metabolism
  • calvariae
  • disuse osteopenia
  • gene expression
  • long bones
  • matrix proteins
  • rat bone
  • weight bearing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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