Creating conditions similar to those that occur during exposure of cells to microgravity induces apoptosis in human lymphocytes by 5-lipoxygenase-mediated mitochondrial uncoupling and cytochrome c release.
Experiments conducted in space in the last two decades have shown that T lymphocyte activation in vitro is remarkably reduced in microgravity. The data indicate that a failure of the expression of the interleukin-2 receptor (measured as protein secreted in the supernatant) is responsible of the loss of activity. To test such hypothesis we have studied the genetic expression of interleukin-2 and of its receptor in concanavalin A-activated lymphocytes with the RT-PCR technology. Microgravity conditions were simulated in the fast rotating clinostat and in the random positioning machine. The latter is an instrument introduced recently to study gravitational effects on single cells. Our data clearly show that the expression of both IL-2 and IL-2Ralpha genes is significantly inhibited in simulated O X g. Thus full activation is prevented.