The study concerns effects of 21 days of sustained bedrest and hypoxia, alone and in combination, on skeletal muscle microRNA (miRNA) expression. It is expected that astronauts undertaking long-duration missions will be exposed not only to microgravity but also to a hypoxic environment. The molecular machinery underlying microgravity-induced alterations in skeletal muscle structure and function is still largely unknown. One possible regulatory mechanism is altered expression of miRNAs, a group of noncoding RNAs which down-regulate many different target genes through increased degradation or translation of their messenger RNA. Thirteen healthy men underwent three 21-day interventions, interspersed by 4-month washout periods: horizontal bedrest in normoxia, bedrest in hypoxia, ambulation in hypoxia. The level of hypoxia corresponded to 4000 m altitude. miRNAs from v. lateralis muscle biopsies were analyzed using a microarray covering ≈4000 human miRNAs. Sixteen mature miRNAs were up-regulated and three down-regulated after bedrest. The magnitudes of these changes were small and a large portion of the miRNAs affected by bedrest was also differentially expressed after washout periods. In fact, the number of differentially expressed probe sets over time was substantially larger than what could be detected after bedrest. Still, the majority of the miRNAs (let-7, miR-15, miR-25, miR-199, miR-133) that were differentially expressed following bedrest, belong to miRNA families previously reported in the context of muscle physiology, in particular to respond to changes in mechanical loading. Since only minor changes in miRNA expression could be detected after bedrest, our data indicate miRNA to play only a minor role in the substantial change in muscle phenotype seen with unloading.
Rullman, E., Mekjavic, I. B., Fischer, H., & Eiken, O. (2016). PlanHab (Planetary Habitat Simulation): The combined and separate effects of 21 days bed rest and hypoxic confinement on human skeletal muscle miRNA expression. Physiological Reports, 4(8). https://doi.org/10.14814/phy2.12753