Space flight strongly moderates human immunity but is in general well tolerated. Elucidation of the mechanisms by which zero gravity interacts with human immunity may provide clues for developing rational avenues to deal with exaggerated immune responses, e.g. as in autoimmune disease. Using two sounding rockets and one manned Soyuz launch, the influence of space flight on immunological signal transduction provoked by lipopolysaccharide (LPS) stimulation was investigated in freshly isolated peripheral blood monocytes and was compared to samples obtained from on-board centrifuge-loaded 1a'...g controls. The effect of microgravity on immunological signal transduction is highly specific, since LPS dependent Jun-N-terminal kinase activation is impaired in the 0a'...g condition, while the corresponding LPS dependent activation of p38 MAP kinase remains unaffected. Thus our results identify Jun-N-terminal kinase as a relevant target in immunity for microgravity and support using Jun-N-terminal kinase specific inhibitors for combating autoimmune disease.

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Journal Scientific Reports (Nature)
Verhaar, A.P, Hoekstra, E, Tjon, S.W.A, Utomo, W.K, Deuring, J.J, Bakker, E.R.M, … Peppelenbosch, M.P. (2014). Dichotomal effect of space flight-associated microgravity on stress-activated protein kinases in innate immunity. Scientific Reports (Nature), 4. doi:10.1038/srep05468