The Mice Drawer System (MDS) Tissue Sharing program was the longest rodent space mission ever performed. It provided 20 research teams with organs and tissues collected from mice having spent 3 months on the International Space Station (ISS). Our participation to this experiment aimed at investigating the impact of such prolonged exposure to extreme space conditions on mouse skin physiology.
Mice were maintained in the MDS for 91 days aboard ISS (space group (S)). Skin specimens were collected shortly after landing for morphometric, biochemical, and transcriptomic analyses. An exact replicate of the experiment in the MDS was performed on ground (ground group (G)).
A significant reduction of dermal thickness (−15%, P=0.05) was observed in S mice accompanied by an increased newly synthetized procollagen (+42%, P=0.03), likely reflecting an increased collagen turnover. Transcriptomic data suggested that the dermal atrophy might be related to an early degradation of defective newly formed procollagen molecules. Interestingly, numerous hair follicles in growing anagen phase were observed in the three S mice, validated by a high expression of specific hair follicles genes, while only one mouse in the G controls showed growing hairs. By microarray analysis of whole thickness skin, we observed a significant modulation of 434 genes in S versus G mice. A large proportion of the upregulated transcripts encoded proteins related to striated muscle homeostasis.
These data suggest that a prolonged exposure to space conditions may induce skin atrophy, deregulate hair follicle cycle, and markedly affect the transcriptomic repertoire of the cutaneous striated muscle panniculus carnosus.
Image: Skin histology. Masson’s trichrome staining of a ground control mouse showing the different skin layers