Genomic response of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans to spaceflight

Florian Selch, Akira Higashibata, Mari Imamizo-Sato, Atsushi Higashitani, Noriaki Ishioka, Nathaniel J. Szewczyk, Catharine A. Conley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


On Earth, it is common to employ laboratory animals such as the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans to help understand human health concerns. Similar studies in Earth orbit should help understand and address the concerns associated with spaceflight. The "International Caenorhabditis elegans Experiment FIRST" (ICE FIRST), was carried out onboard the Dutch Taxiflight in April of 2004 by an international collaboration of laboratories in France, Canada, Japan and the United States. With the exception of a slight movement defect upon return to Earth, the result of altered muscle development, no significant abnormalities were detected in spaceflown C. elegans. Work from Japan revealed apoptosis proceeds normally and work from Canada revealed no significant increase in the rate of mutation. These results suggest that C. elegans can be used to study non-lethal responses to spaceflight and can possibly be developed as a biological sensor. To further our understanding of C. elegans response to spaceflight, we examined the gene transcription response to the 10 days in space using a near full genome microarray analysis. The transcriptional response is consistent with the observed normal developmental timing, apoptosis, DNA repair, and altered muscle development. The genes identified as altered in response to spaceflight are enriched for genes known to be regulated, in C. elegans, in response to altered environmental conditions (Insulin and TGF-β regulated). These results demonstrate C. elegans can be used to study the effects of altered gravity and suggest that C. elegans responds to spaceflight by altering the expression of at least some of the same metabolic genes that are altered in response to differing terrestrial environments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)807-815
Number of pages9
JournalAdvances in Space Research
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • C. elegans
  • Dauer
  • Insulin
  • Microarray
  • Spaceflight
  • TGF-β


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