Variable lymphocyte responses in rats after space flight

Patricia V. Nash, Andrea M. Mastro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Most studies of human blood lymphocyte function following space flight have indicated that microgravity suppresses T cell proliferation. However, several other postflight experiments with animals have shown no decrease in proliferation of lymphocytes from peripheral lymphatic tissues, suggesting that different tissues may be variably affected by microgravity. Therefore, we examined the proliferation of lymphocytes from both spleen and lymph nodes of rats following a 4-day flight aboard the Space Shuttle. The experiments were designed to investigate tissue variability as well as potential mechanisms involved in suppressing proliferation. We found that proliferation of lymph node lymphocytes (LNL) from flight (FLT) animals stimulated with the antigen receptor-dependent T cell mitogen concanavalin A was depressed and could not be restored by supplementing cultures with interleukin 1 or interleukin 2 (IL-2). Response to another receptor-dependent mitogen, phytohemagglutinin, was not decreased. However, proliferation of FLT LNL following stimulation with the receptor-independent, mitogenic combination of phorbol ester and ionomycin was depressed. LNL IL-2 activity, cell surface marker expression, and B cell responses to mitogen were normal. Thus, deficits in antigen receptor/ligand interactions, cell surface marker expression, or IL-2 did not account for the suppressed lymphocyte proliferation observed postflight. In contrast to LNL, FLT splenocyte proliferation was not depressed. Assayable IL-2, IL-2 receptor expression, and cell surface marker expression likewise were unaffected by space flight. The differences between lymph node and splenic responses demonstrate the tissue-specific nature of microgravity effects on individual lymphatic tissues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)125-131
Number of pages7
JournalExperimental Cell Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1992

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cell Biology


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