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Rapid Cellular Perception of Gravitational Forces in Human Jurkat T Cells and Transduction Into Gene Expression Regulation

Cellular processes are influenced in many ways by changes in gravitational force. In previous studies, we were able to demonstrate, in various cellular systems and research platforms that reactions and adaptation processes occur very rapidly after the onset of altered gravity. In this study we systematically compared differentially expressed gene transcript clusters (TCs) in human Jurkat T cells in microgravity provided by a suborbital ballistic rocket with vector-averaged gravity (vag) provided by a 2D clinostat. Additionally, we included 9× g centrifuge experiments and rigorous controls for excluding other factors of influence than gravity. We found that 11 TCs were significantly altered in 5 min of flight-induced and vector-averaged gravity. Among the annotated clusters were G3BP1KPNB1NUDT3SFT2D2, and POMK. Our results revealed that less than 1% of all examined TCs show the same response in vag and flight-induced microgravity, while 38% of differentially regulated TCs identified during the hypergravity phase of the suborbital ballistic rocket flight could be verified with a 9× g ground centrifuge. In the 2D clinostat system, doing one full rotation per second, vector effects of the gravitational force are only nullified if the sensing mechanism requires 1 s or longer. Due to the fact that vag with an integration period of 1 s was not able to reproduce the results obtained in flight-induced microgravity, we conclude that the initial trigger of gene expression response to microgravity requires less than 1 s reaction time. Additionally, we discovered extensive gene expression differences caused by simple handling of the cell suspension in control experiments, which underlines the need for rigorous standardization regarding mechanical forces during cell culture experiments in general.

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C. S. Thiel, S. Christoffel , S. Tauber, C. Vahlensieck, D. de Zélicourt, L. E. Layer, B. Lauber, J. Polzer, O. Ullrich, International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 21(2), 514 (2020). doi: 10.3390/ijms21020514