Microgravity - Science and Technology

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 38–43 | Cite as

Action potential properties are gravity dependent

  • Klaus MeissnerEmail author
  • Wolfgang Hanke


The functional properties of neuronal tissue critically depend on cellular composition and intercellular comunication. A basic principle of such communication found in various types of neurons is the generation of action potentials (APs). These APs depend on the presence of voltage gated ion channels and propagate along cellular processes (e.g. axons) towards target neurons or other cells. It has already been shown that the properties of ion channels depend on gravity. To discover whether the properties of APs also depend on gravity, we examined the propagation of APs in earthworms (invertebrates) and isolated nerve fibres (i.e. bundles of axons) from earthworms under conditions of micro- and macro-gravity. In a second set of experiments we could verify our results on rat axons (vertebrates). Our experiments carried out during two parabolic flight campaigns revealed that microgravity slows AP propagation velocity and macrogravity accelerates the transmission of action potentials. The relevance for live-science related questions is considerable, taking into account that altered gravity conditions might affect AP velocity in man during space flight missions.


Excitable Medium Gravity Change Drop Tower Parabolic Flight Campaign Patch Clamp Pipette 
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© Z-Tec Publishing 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut for Physiology (230)University of HohenheimStuttgartGermany

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