Microgravity control of autophagy modulates osteoclastogenesis

Yuvaraj Sambandam, Molly T. Townsend, Jason J. Pierce, Cecilia M. Lipman, Azizul Haque, Ted A. Bateman, Sakamuri V. Reddy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


Evidence indicates that astronauts experience significant bone loss during space mission. Recently, we used the NASA developed rotary cell culture system (RCCS) to simulate microgravity (μXg) conditions and demonstrated increased osteoclastogenesis in mouse bone marrow cultures. Autophagy is a cellular recycling process of nutrients. Therefore, we hypothesize that μXg control of autophagy modulates osteoclastogenesis. Real-time PCR analysis of total RNA isolated from mouse bone marrow derived non-adherent cells subjected to modeled μXg showed a significant increase in autophagic marker Atg5, LC3 and Atg16L mRNA expression compared to ground based control (Xg) cultures. Western blot analysis of total cell lysates identified an 8.0-fold and 7.0-fold increase in the Atg5 and LC3-II expression, respectively. Confocal microscopy demonstrated an increased autophagosome formation in μXg subjected RAW 264.7 preosteoclast cells. RT2 profiler PCR array screening for autophagy related genes identified that μXg upregulates intracellular signaling molecules associated with autophagy, autophagosome components and inflammatory cytokines/growth factors which coregulate autophagy in RAW 264.7 preosteoclast cells. Autophagy inhibitor, 3-methyladenine (3-MA) treatment of mouse bone marrow derived non-adherent mononuclear cells showed a significant decrease in μXg induced Atg5 and LC3 mRNA expression in the presence or absence of RANK ligand (RANKL) stimulation. Furthermore, RANKL treatment significantly increased (8-fold) p-CREB transcription factor levels under μXg as compared to Xg cultures and 3-MA inhibited RANKL increased p-CREB expression in these cells. Also, 3-MA suppresses μXg elevated osteoclast differentiation in mouse bone marrow cultures. Thus, our results suggest that μXg induced autophagy plays an important role in enhanced osteoclast differentiation and could be a potential therapeutic target to prevent bone loss in astronauts during space flight missions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)125-131
Number of pages7
StatePublished - Apr 2014
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Physiology
  • Histology


  • Autophagy
  • Microgravity
  • NASA
  • Osteoclast
  • Rotary cell culture system (RCCS)


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