ESA title
The Characteristic Response of the Human Leukocyte Transcriptome to 60 Days of Bed Rest and to Reambulation - SciSpacE

The Characteristic Response of the Human Leukocyte Transcriptome to 60 Days of Bed Rest and to Reambulation

We sought to isolate the microgravity effect of spaceflight from other space stressors by characterizing the leukocytes’ transcriptome of participants to a 60-d bed rest study; an Earth model of microgravity.


Twenty healthy men received a nutritional supplement or not and 10 blood samples were collected throughout three study phases: baseline data collection (BDC) (BDC-12, BDC-11), head-down tilt (HDT) bed rest (HDT1, HDT2, HDT30, HDT60), and reambulation (R1, R2, R12, R30). We measured gene expression through RNA sequencing of leukocytes, applied generalized linear models to assess differential expression followed by enrichment analysis to identify temporal changes (model 1) and to measure the impact of a nutritional supplement (model 2).


Baseline transcriptomes included 14,624 protein-coding transcripts and showed both high intraindividual correlations (mean Kendall coefficient, 0.91 ± 0.04) and interindividual homogeneity (0.89 ± 0.03). We identified 2415 differentially expressed protein-coding transcripts grouping into six clusters (C1–C6). At phase transitions, clusters showed either a decrease-then-increase (C3 and C5) or an increase-then-decrease (C1, C2, C6) pattern. All six clusters converged toward average expression at HDT30 and HDT60. Gene ontology terms at baseline related to immune functions while in bed rest and reambulation related to sequestration of ions, immune response, cellular stress, and mineralization. The nutritional intervention had no effect. Conclusions: The temporal profiles of leukocytes’ transcriptomes emphasized the dynamic nature of gene expression occurring during and after bed rest. Enriched biological processes among the differentially expressed genes included immune related and unrelated responses. The convergence toward no differential expression at days 30 and 60 of bed rest suggests a hypometabolic state. Current findings can guide future work on the complex responses and adaptation mechanisms to microgravity.