Effects of gravity changes on gene expression of BDNF and serotonin receptors in the mouse brain

PLoS One. 2017 Jun 7;12(6):e0177833. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0177833. eCollection 2017.


Spaceflight entails various stressful environmental factors including microgravity. The effects of gravity changes have been studied extensively on skeletal, muscular, cardiovascular, immune and vestibular systems, but those on the nervous system are not well studied. The alteration of gravity in ground-based animal experiments is one of the approaches taken to address this issue. Here we investigated the effects of centrifugation-induced gravity changes on gene expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and serotonin receptors (5-HTRs) in the mouse brain. Exposure to 2g hypergravity for 14 days showed differential modulation of gene expression depending on regions of the brain. BDNF expression was decreased in the ventral hippocampus and hypothalamus, whereas increased in the cerebellum. 5-HT1BR expression was decreased in the cerebellum, whereas increased in the ventral hippocampus and caudate putamen. In contrast, hypergravity did not affect gene expression of 5-HT1AR, 5-HT2AR, 5-HT2CR, 5-HT4R and 5-HT7R. In addition to hypergravity, decelerating gravity change from 2g hypergravity to 1g normal gravity affected gene expression of BDNF, 5-HT1AR, 5-HT1BR, and 5-HT2AR in various regions of the brain. We also examined involvement of the vestibular organ in the effects of hypergravity. Surgical lesions of the inner ear's vestibular organ removed the effects induced by hypergravity on gene expression, which suggests that the effects of hypergravity are mediated through the vestibular organ. In summary, we showed that gravity changes induced differential modulation of gene expression of BDNF and 5-HTRs (5-HT1AR, 5-HT1BR and 5-HT2AR) in some brain regions. The modulation of gene expression may constitute molecular bases that underlie behavioral alteration induced by gravity changes.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / physiology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / biosynthesis*
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Gravitation
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT1A / biosynthesis*
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT1A / metabolism
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT1B / biosynthesis*
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT1B / metabolism
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT2A / biosynthesis*
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT2A / metabolism
  • Space Flight
  • Vestibule, Labyrinth / metabolism
  • Vestibule, Labyrinth / physiology


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT1B
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT2A
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT1A

Grants and funding

14YPTK-005512 from Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).