Alteration of Cytoskeleton Morphology and Gene Expression in Human Breast Cancer Cells under Simulated Microgravity

Document Type : Original Article



Weightlessness simulation due to the simulated microgravity has been shown to considerably affect behavior of tumor cells. It is aim of this study to evaluate characteristics of human breast cancer cells in this scaffold- free 3D culture model.
Materials and Methods
In this experimental study, the cells were exposed to simulated microgravity in a random- positioning machine (RPM) for five days. Morphology was observed under phase-contrast and confocal microscopy. Cytofilament staining was performed and changes in expression level of cytofilament genes, proliferation/differentiation genes, oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes were detected by quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR), followed by western blot confirmation.
After five days, distinct spheroid formation was observed. Rearrangement of the cytoskeleton into spherical shape was visible. VIM gene expression was significantly up-regulated for adherent cells and spheroids (3.3x and 3.6x respectively, P < 0.05 each). RHOA also showed significant gene up-regulation for adherent cells and spheroids (3.2x and 3.9x respectively, P < 0.05 each). BRCA showed significant gene up-regulation in adherent cells and spheroids (2.1x and 4.1x respectively, P < 0.05 each). ERBB2 showed significant gene up-regulation (2.4x, P < 0.05) in the spheroids, but not in the adherent cells. RAB27A showed no significant alteration in gene expression. MAPK) showed significant gene up-regulation in adherent cells and spheroids (3.2x, 3.0x, P < 0.05 each). VEGF gene expression was down-regulated under simulated microgravity, without significance. Alterations of gene expressions could be confirmed on protein level for vimentin and MAPK1. Protein production was not increased for BRCA1, human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) and VEGF. Contradictory changes were determined for RHOA and its related protein.
Microgravity provides an easy-to handle, scaffold-free 3D-culture model for human breast cancer cells. There were considerable changes in morphology, cytoskeleton shape and gene expressions. Identification of the underlying mechanisms could provide new therapeutic options.