The role of the cytoskeleton in sensing changes in gravity by nonspecialized cells

D. Vorselen, W.H. Roos, F.C. MacKintosh, G.J.L. Wuite, J.J.W.A. van Loon

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


A large body of evidence indicates that single cells in vitro respond to changes in gravity, and that this response might play an important role for physiological changes at the organism level during spaceflight. Gravity can lead to changes in cell proliferation, differentiation, signaling, and gene expression. At first glance, gravitational forces seem too small to affect bodies with the size of a cell. Thus, the initial response to gravity is both puzzling and important for understanding physiological changes in space. This also offers a unique environment to study the mechanical response of cells. In the past 2 decades, important steps have been made in the field of mechanobiology, and we use these advances to reevaluate the response of single cells to changes in gravity. Recent studies have focused on the cytoskeleton as initial gravity sensor. Thus, we review the observed changes in the cytoskeleton in a microgravity environment, both during spaceflight and in ground-based simulation techniques. We also evaluate to what degree the current experimental evidence supports the cytoskeleton as primary gravity sensor. Finally, we consider how the cytoskeleton itself could be affected by changed gravity. To make the next step toward understanding the response of cells to altered gravity, the challenge will be to track changes quantitatively and on short timescales. © FASEB.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)536-547
JournalFASEB Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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