Nerves, Muscles, and Metabolism – Programmed Research

  1. A01-1
  2. A01-2
  3. A01-3
  4. A02-1
  5. A02-2
  6. A02-3
  7. A02-4
  8. A02-5
  9. A03-1
  10. A03-2
  11. A03-3
Research Subject A01-2 Mechanisms of Mechanostress Transmissions from Nerves to Muscles - Metabolism and Adaptive Responses
Research Group Leader
Atsushi Higashitani
Research Group Members
  • Akira Higashibata
    Developer, Human Spaceflight Technology Directorate, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
Research Collaborator(s)
  • Shusei Sato
    Associate Professor, Graduate School of Life Sciences, Tohoku University

A prolonged stay in Space’s microgravity environment is a well-known cause of bone loss and muscle atrophy among astronauts. We have found that even a small nematode C. elegans, which consists of as few as 1,000 somatic cells, significantly reduces the synthesis of proteins or the expression of genes related to muscles, metabolism, and cytoskeletons when cultured in a microgravity environment, strongly suggesting that gravity has a large impact on cellular development and growth at the individual cellular level.

In this research, we will use molecular-genetic and global omics analysis to elucidate the adaptive response of nematodes. More specifically, we will elucidate the molecular mechanosensors and neuronal systems that nematodes use to translate various conditions in experiments in Space as well as on Earth - such as the culture conditions, surface tension over the agarose gels, hydrostatic pressure change in the solution, and the centrifugal force of gravity – into the adaptive responses in their muscles and metabolism. We will also investigate if and how changes to their muscles and metabolism are affected by the epigenetic control mechanism that is associated with the gravitational adaptation inherited over generations. Furthermore, since the induction of reactive oxygen species from mitochondria associated with their mechanical deformation has been reported in recent years, we will also analyze a control mechanism for a failing process that is initiated from mitochondrial failures of nematodes, leading to muscle atrophy. In collaboration with other Programmed and Proposed Research in this Research Areas, we will explore a molecular mechanism of the process encompassing the sensation of gravity in muscle cells (myocytes) upon receipt of stimuli from nerves and the adaptive response, including the process leading to failure.