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Analysis of the effects of magnetic levitation to simulate microgravity environment on the Arp2/3 complex pathway in macrophage


With dwindling natural resources on earth, current and future generations will need to explore space to new planets that will require travel under no or varying gravity conditions. Hence, long-term space missions and anticipated impacts on human biology such as changes in immune function are of growing research interest. Here, we reported new findings on mechanisms of immune response to microgravity with a focus on macrophage as a cellular model. We employed a superconducting magnet to generate a simulated microgravity environment and evaluated the effects of simulated microgravity on RAW 264.7 mouse macrophage cell line in three time frames: 8, 24, and 48 h. As study endpoints, we measured cell viability, phagocytosis, and used next-generation sequencing to explore its changing mechanism. Macrophage cell viability and phagocytosis both showed a marked decrease under microgravity. The differentially expressed genes (DEG) were identified in two ways: (1) gravity-dependent DEG, compared μg samples and 1 g samples at each time point; (2) time-dependent DEG, compared time-point samples within the same gravitational field. Through transcriptome analysis and confirmed by molecular biological verification, our findings firstly suggest that microgravity might affect macrophage phagocytosis by targeting Arp2/3 complex involved cytoskeleton synthesis and causing macrophage immune dysfunction. Our findings contribute to an emerging body of scholarship on biological effects of space travel.

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Data availability

The authors confirm that the data supporting the findings of this study are available within the article [and/or] its supplementary materials. RNA-seq reads have been deposited into NCBI SRA database (PRJNA551509).


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This work was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31800781, 61927810, 12002285), China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (2018M631198), Key Research and Development Program of Shaanxi (2020JZ-11), Natural Science Basic Research Program of Shaanxi (2020JQ-126), Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (G2020KY05203), and the Seed Foundation of Innovation and Creation for Graduate Students in Northwestern Polytechnical University (ZZ2018240).

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Correspondence to Hui Yang.

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Wang, S., Zhang, N., Di, J. et al. Analysis of the effects of magnetic levitation to simulate microgravity environment on the Arp2/3 complex pathway in macrophage. J Biol Phys 47, 323–335 (2021).

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  • Microgravity
  • Macrophage
  • RNA-seq
  • Differentially expressed genes