Epigenetic mechanisms understanding the responsiveness of skeletal muscles to physiological stimuli during an ultra-long-term stay in space – Publicly Invited Research

  1. A01 Akiyama
  2. A01 Ochi
  3. A01 Chatani
  4. A01 Seiki
  5. A01 Nikawa
  6. A01 Kawakami
  7. A01 Tomita
  8. A01 Honda
  1. A02 Shinohara
  2. A02 Maekawa
  3. A02 Ohgami
  4. A02 Nishimura
  5. A02 Kawano
  6. A02 Iwase
  7. A02 Furuichi
  8. A02 Myung
  9. A02 Kitamura
  1. A03 Nakamura
  2. A03 Harada
  3. A03 Ide
  4. A03 Shirai
  5. A03 Kakinuma
  1. B01 Lazarus
  2. B01 Miwa
  3. B01 Kunieda
  4. B01 Shimada
  5. B01 Kitaya
  6. B01 Sawano
Research Subject Epigenetic mechanisms understanding the responsiveness of skeletal muscles to physiological stimuli during an ultra-long-term stay in space
Research Group Leader
Fuminori Kawano
Research Collaborator(s)
  • Kazuya Yamada
    Professor, Graduate School of Health Sciences, Matsumoto University
  • Hitoshi Kawashima
    Associate Professor, Matsumoto University Matsusho Junior College
  • Ken Nakata
    Professor, Graduate School of Medicine, Osaka University
  • Keisuke Nimura
    Associate Professor, Graduate School of Medicine, Osaka University

Forward a manned mission to Mars
NASA currently publishes its plan for Mars exploration, in which a Mars mission is estimated to entail a journey of up to 1,100 days without any transfer of resources (i.e. ultra-long-term stay). Certain aspects of the space environment, such as microgravity, adversely affect the physical functions in astronauts, similarly to those after less physical activity or of a person in bed on Earth. Onboard exercise in the International Space Station successfully prevents a decrease in physical functions, although whether the exercise equipment can be loaded a vehicle for the Mars mission remains a question. Therefore, new ideas on how to maintain the health of astronauts are desired for a successful mission. Our group will verify the epigenetic mechanisms responsible for "responsiveness to physiological stimuli" that may cause individual differences in the gain of exercise-induced effects. That verification will lead to a new theory on how to alleviate medical problems induced in the microgravity environment.

Epigenetics and development of individual differences in skeletal muscle
It is known that the molecular environment surrounding DNA, particularly the epigenome, plays a crucial role in the regulation of gene transcription. We have hypothesized that a prior lifestyle affects the epigenome, leading to altered responsiveness to a given physiological stimulus. The main purpose of our study is to investigate how skeletal muscles and their epigenome respond to simulated microgravity by the different histories of muscle activity, nutrition, injury or gravitational stimulation. Our previous study reported that muscle activity caused a specific gene expression independent of active histone modifications (Kawano, F. et al. J Appl Physiol 119: 1042-52, 2015). Antigravity muscles that show tonic neuromuscular activity under gravity have a unique epigenetic property, which may contribute to the regulation of homeostasis, adaptability and responsiveness to stimuli.