2018 - Electrophysiological experiments in microgravity: lessons learned and future challenges
Port-a-Patch publication in Microgravity (2018)
Wuest S.L., Gantenbein B., Ille F.,Egli M.
Microgravity (2018) 4:7 doi:10.1038/s41526-018-0042-3
Advances in electrophysiological experiments have led to the discovery of mechanosensitive ion channels (MSCs) and the identification of the physiological function of specific MSCs. They are believed to play important roles in mechanosensitive pathways by allowing for cells to sense their mechanical environment. However, the physiological function of many MSCs has not
been conclusively identified. Therefore, experiments have been developed that expose cells to various mechanical loads, such as shear flow, membrane indentation, osmotic challenges and hydrostatic pressure. In line with these experiments, mechanical unloading, as experienced in microgravity, represents an interesting alternative condition, since exposure to microgravity leads to a series of physiological adaption processes. As outlined in this review, electrophysiological experiments performed in microgravity have shown an influence of gravity on biological functions depending on ion channels at all hierarchical levels, from the cellular level to organs. In this context, calcium signaling represents an interesting cellular pathway, as it involves the direct action of calcium-permeable ion channels, and specific gravitatic cells have linked graviperception to this pathway. Multiple key proteins in the graviperception pathways have been identified. However, measurements on vertebrae cells have revealed controversial results. In conclusion, electrophysiological experiments in microgravity have shown that ion-channel-dependent physiological processes are altered in mechanically unloaded conditions. Future experiments may provide a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms.