RNA Interference and Protein Phosphorylation in Space Environment Using the Nematode Caenorhabditis elegans (CERISE) - 09.17.14

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RNA Interference and Protein Phosphorylation in Space Environment Using the Nematode Caenorhabditis elegans (CERISE) evaluates the effect of microgravity on RNA interference and studies how the space environment effects protein phosphorylation and signal transduction in the muscle fibers of Caenorhabditis elegans.

Science Results for Everyone

Ageing and space travel are hard on the muscles. This investigation studies how space living affects muscle fibers using nematode worms (Caenorhabditis elegans). The data show changes in muscle, bone, and cell proteins and help scientists understand how human muscle decline. Researchers treat the worms in a special way to block the activity of certain genes to stop degradation of muscle-specific proteins in both microgravity and normal gravity. The treatment may be effective in combating muscle loss and other problems on future long-duration space missions. 

The following content was provided by Atsushi Higashitani, Ph.D., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Information provided courtesy of the Japan Aerospace and Exploration Agency (JAXA).

Experiment Details


Principal Investigator(s)

  • Atsushi Higashitani, Ph.D., Tohoku University, Miyagi, Japan

  • Co-Investigator(s)/Collaborator(s)
  • Nathaniel J. Szewczyk, Ph.D., University of Pittsburg, Pittsburgh, PA, United States
  • Akira Higashibata, Ph.D., Japan Aerospace and Exploration Agency, Tsukuba, Japan

  • Developer(s)
    Information Pending
    Sponsoring Space Agency
    Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)

    Sponsoring Organization
    Information Pending

    Research Benefits
    Information Pending

    ISS Expedition Duration
    October 2009 - March 2010

    Expeditions Assigned

    Previous ISS Missions
    The predecessor to this investigation, ICE-First, was flown to ISS in 2004.

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    Experiment Description

    Research Overview

    • RNA interference is an useful technique to artificially knock down a target gene expression. In this experiment we will examine RNA interference under space environment. We will also evaluate the effect of space environment on protein phosphorylation and signal transduction concerning muscle fibers formation using gene knock-downed C.elegans.

    Examine RNA interference under space environment and evaluate effect of space environment for protein phosphorylation and signal transduction concerning muscle fibers formation using gene knock downed C.elegans

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    Space Applications
    Information Pending

    Earth Applications
    The experimental data will provide the important information to clarify the muscle atrophy in space and also on the Earth. The results will be the first evidence that RNA interference will be a powerful technique in space experiment to investigate the effect of microgravity on gene expression.

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    Operational Requirements
    Information Pending

    Operational Protocols
    Information Pending

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    Results/More Information

    Comparison of the in-orbit samples to its Ground Control (GC) equivalent showed no differences. The Gene expression of 228 microRNAs of the 232 analyzed were also unaffected during the micro-g duration. RNAi applied to a GFP reduced chromosomal gfp expression in gonad tissue, which was not different from the GC samples. RNAi applied to a rbx-1 also induced abnormal chromosome segregation in the gonad for the in-orbit samples. Finally, RNAi applied to lysosomal cathepsins prevented degradation of the muscle-specific α-actin protein in both micro-g and GC conditions (Etheridge [a] 2011).      Treatment with RNAi works as effectively in microgravity as on Earth within multiple tissues, suggesting RNAi may provide an effective tool for combating spaceflight-induced pathologies aboard future long-duration space missions. Furthermore, this is the first demonstration that RNAi can be utilized to block muscle protein degradation, both on Earth and in space. Scientists are now attempting to analyze the effect of microgravity on the C. elegans muscular cells using transcriptome and proteome analyses (Etheridge [b] 2011).

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    Results Publications

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    Ground Based Results Publications

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    ISS Patents

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    Related Publications

      Higashitani A, Higashitani A, Hashizume T, Sugimoto T, Mori C, Nemoto K, Etheridge T, Higashitani N, Takanami T, Suzuki H, Fukui K, Yamazaki TQ, Ishioka N, Szewczyk NJ, Szewczyk NJ, Higashibata A.  C. elegans RNAi space experiment (CERISE) in Japanese Experiment Module KIBO. Biological Sciences in Space. 2009; 23(4): 183-187. DOI: 10.2187/bss.23.183.

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    Related Websites

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