The concept of microgravity (free-fall) influencing cellular functions in nonadherent cells has not been a part of mainstream scientific thought. Utilizing rotating wall vessels (RWVs) to generate simulated microgravity conditions, we found that respiratory burst activity was significantly altered in nonadherent promyelocytic (HL-60) cells. Specifically, HL-60 cells in simulated microgravity for 6, 19, 42, 47, and 49 d had 3.8-fold fewer cells that were able to participate in respiratory burst activity than cells from 1 × g cultures (P = 0.0011, N = 5). The quantity of respiratory burst products from the cells in simulated microgravity was also significantly reduced. The fold increase over controls in mean fluorescence intensities for oxidative products from cells in microgravity was 1.1 ± 0.1 versus 1.8 ± 0.3 for cells at 1 × g (P = 0.013, N = 4). Furthermore, the kinetic response for phorbol ester-stimulated burst activity was affected by simulated microgravity. These results demonstrate that simulated microgravity alters an innate cellular function (burst activity). If respiratory burst activity is impaired by true microgravity, then recovery from infections during spaceflight could be delayed. Finally, RWVs provide an excellent model for investigating the mechanisms associated with microgravity-induced changes in nonadherent cells.
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Vol. 37 • No. 4