Results of past space experiments suggest that the biological effect of space radiation could be enhanced under microgravity in some cases, especially in insects. To examine if such a synergistic effect of radiation and microgravity also exists in human cells, frequencies of chromosome instability and cellular levels of several stress-responsive proteins were analyzed in cultured human and rodent cells after space flight. Human (MCF7 and AT2KY), mouse (m5S) and hamster (SHE) cell lines were loaded on the Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-95 mission) and grown during a 9-day mission. After landing, the micronuclei resulting from abnormal nuclear division and accumulation of stress-responsive proteins such as p53 and mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs), which are involved in radiation-induced signal transduction cascades, were analyzed. The frequencies of micronuclei in all the four mammalian cell strains tested were not significantly different between flight and ground control samples. Also, the cellular amounts of p53, p21 (WAF1/SDI1/CIP1) and activated (phosphorylated) forms of three distinct MAPKs in MCF7 and m5S cells of flight samples were similar to those of ground control samples. These results indicated that any effect of space radiation, microgravity, or combination of both were not detectable, at least under the present experimental conditions.
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