Zexi Cai

Long-Term Simulation of Microgravity Induces Changes in Gene Expression in Breast Cancer Cells

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


  • Jayashree Sahana
  • José Luis Cortés-Sánchez, Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg
  • ,
  • Viviann Sandt, Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg
  • ,
  • Daniela Melnik, Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg
  • ,
  • Thomas J Corydon
  • Herbert Schulz, Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg
  • ,
  • Zexi Cai
  • Katja Evert, University of Regensburg
  • ,
  • Daniela Grimm
  • Markus Wehland

Microgravity changes the gene expression pattern in various cell types. This study focuses on the breast cancer cell lines MCF-7 (less invasive) and MDA-MB-231 (triple-negative, highly invasive). The cells were cultured for 14 days under simulated microgravity (s-µg) conditions using a random positioning machine (RPM). We investigated cytoskeletal and extracellular matrix (ECM) factors as well as focal adhesion (FA) and the transmembrane proteins involved in different cellular signaling pathways (MAPK, PAM and VEGF). The mRNA expressions of 24 genes of interest (TUBB, ACTB, COL1A1, COL4A5, LAMA3, ITGB1, CD44, VEGF, FLK1, EGFR, SRC, FAK1, RAF1, AKT1, ERK1, MAPK14, MAP2K1, MTOR, RICTOR, VCL, PXN, CDKN1, CTNNA1 and CTNNB1) were determined by quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) and studied using STRING interaction analysis. Histochemical staining was carried out to investigate the morphology of the adherent cells (ADs) and the multicellular spheroids (MCSs) after RPM exposure. To better understand this experimental model in the context of breast cancer patients, a weighted gene co-expression network analysis (WGCNA) was conducted to obtain the expression profiles of 35 breast cell lines from the HMS LINCS Database. The qPCR-verified genes were searched in the mammalian phenotype database and the human genome-wide association studies (GWAS) Catalog. The results demonstrated the positive association between the real metastatic microtumor environment and MCSs with respect to the extracellular matrix, cytoskeleton, morphology, different cellular signaling pathway key proteins and several other components. In summary, the microgravity-engineered three-dimensional MCS model can be utilized to study breast cancer cell behavior and to assess the therapeutic efficacies of drugs against breast cancer in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1181
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023

    Research areas

  • PAM signaling, breast cancer, cytoskeleton, extracellular matrix, focal adhesion, microgravity, spheroids

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