Exposure to zero gravity has been shown to cause a decrease in bone formation. This implicates osteoblasts as the gravity-sensing cell in bone. Osteoblasts also are known to produce neutral proteinases, including collagenase and tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), which are thought to be important in bone development and remodeling. The present study investigated the effects of zero gravity on development of calvariae and their expression of collagenase and tPA. After in utero exposure to zero gravity for 9 days on the NASA STS-70 space shuttle mission, the calvariae of rat pups were examined by immunohistochemistry for the presence and location of these two proteinases. The ages of the pups were from gestational day 20 (G20) to postnatal (PN) day 35. Both collagenase and tPA were found to be present at all ages examined, with the greatest amount of both proteinases present in the PN 14 rats. At later ages, high amounts were maintained for tPA but collagenase decreased substantially between ages PN21 to PN35. The location of collagenase was found to be associated with bone-lining cells, osteoblasts, osteocytes, and in the matrix along cement lines. In contrast, tPA was associated with endothelial cells lining the blood vessels entering bone. The presence and developmental expression of these two proteinases appeared to be unaffected by the exposure to zero gravity. The calvarial thickness of the pups was also examined; again the exposure to zero gravity showed little to no effect on the growth of the calvariae. Notably, from G20 to PN14, calvarial thickness increased dramatically, reaching a plateau after this age. It was apparent that elevated collagenase expression correlated with rapid bone growth in the period from G20 to PN14. To conclude, collagenase and tPA are present during the development of rat calvariae. Despite being produced by the same cell in vitro, i.e., the osteoblast, they are located in distinctly different places in bone in vivo. Their presence, developmental expression, and quantity do not seem to be affected by a brief exposure to zero gravity in utero.
- Tissue plasminogen activator
- Zero gravity