Genomics, Proteomics, Bioinformatics

Assessing The Nucleotide-Level Impact Of Spaceflight Stress Using RNA-Sequencing Data

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
December 14, 2022
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Assessing The Nucleotide-Level Impact Of Spaceflight Stress Using RNA-Sequencing Data
Proportion of transversion mutations identified in the shoot tissue A. thaliana samples. The spaceflight groups (yellow and blue) had a higher proportion of transversion mutations compared to the ground control samples (red). Samples in the gravity control that were exposed to space radiation (yellow) also had a higher proportion of transversions compared to the ground control samples (red), demonstrating that non-microgravity spaceflight stress, like space radiation, is a main contributor to the higher proportion of transversion mutations. —

Understanding the effects of space radiation and microgravity on DNA integrity is critical to assess the impact of long-term spaceflight.

However, studying spaceflight’s effect on terrestrial life is difficult. NASA created GeneLab, a public Omics database for spaceflight-related data, to help combat these limitations. While GeneLab has very few DNA-based data sets, transcriptome information is abundant.

This study used RNA-Seq data from GeneLab to examine DNA sequence variants linked to spaceflight stress exposure. More mutations were observed in spaceflight samples than in the ground control samples.

This increase in variants was not reduced in samples grown under artificial gravity in space, suggesting that microgravity did not significantly affect the amount of DNA damage in this experiment.

There was also an increase in transversion mutations, consistent with known forms of radiation-induced damage.

This work demonstrates that RNA-Seq data is a useful resource for evaluating DNA damage from spaceflight and provides a baseline for the types of mutations that could be detected.

Montana S. Knight, Colleen J. Doherty, Dahlia M. Nielsen


Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻