Differential gene expression of human chondrocytes cultured under short-term altered gravity conditions during parabolic flight maneuvers


  • M. Wehland
  • G. Aleshcheva
  • H. Schulz
  • K. Saar
  • N. Hübner
  • R. Hemmersbach
  • M. Braun
  • X. Ma
  • T. Frett
  • E. Warnke
  • S. Riwaldt
  • J. Pietsch
  • T.J. Corydon
  • M. Infanger
  • D. Grimm


  • Cell Communication and Signaling


  • Cell Commun Signal 13 (1): 18


  • BACKGROUND: Chondrocytes are the main cellular component of articular cartilage. In healthy tissue, they are embedded in a strong but elastic extracelluar matrix providing resistance against mechanical forces and friction for the joints. Osteoarthritic cartilage, however, disrupted by heavy strain, has only very limited potential to heal. One future possibility to replace damaged cartilage might be the scaffold-free growth of chondrocytes in microgravity to form 3D aggregates. RESULTS: To prepare for this, we have conducted experiments during the 20th DLR parabolic flight campaign, where we fixed the cells after the first (1P) and the 31st parabola (31P). Furthermore, we subjected chondrocytes to isolated vibration and hypergravity conditions. Microarray and quantitative real time PCR analyses revealed that hypergravity regulated genes connected to cartilage integrity (BMP4, MMP3, MMP10, EDN1, WNT5A, BIRC3). Vibration was clearly detrimental to cartilage (upregulated inflammatory IL6 and IL8, downregulated growth factors EGF, VEGF, FGF17). The viability of the cells was not affected by the parabolic flight, but showed a significantly increased expression of anti-apoptotic genes after 31 parabolas. The IL-6 release of chondrocytes cultured under conditions of vibration was not changed, but hypergravity (1.8 g) induced a clear elevation of IL-6 protein in the supernatant compared with corresponding control samples. CONCLUSION: Taken together, this study provided new insights into the growth behavior of chondrocytes under short-term microgravity.