The molecular mechanisms driving physiological changes after long duration space flights revealed by quantitative analysis of human blood proteins

BMC Med Genomics. 2019 Mar 13;12(Suppl 2):45. doi: 10.1186/s12920-019-0490-y.


Background: The conditions of space flight have a significant effect on the physiological processes in the human body, yet the molecular mechanisms driving physiological changes remain unknown.

Methods: Blood samples of 18 Russian cosmonauts who had conducted long-duration missions to the International Space Station were collected 30 days before launch and on the first and seventh days after landing.

Results: A panel of 125 proteins in the blood plasma was quantitated by a well-established and highly regarded targeted mass spectrometry approach. This method involves the monitoring of multiple reactions in conjunction with stable isotope-labeled standards at the University of Victoria - Genome BC Proteomics Centre.

Conclusions: Reduction of circulating plasma volume during space flight and activation of fluid retention at the final stage of the flight affect the changes in plasma protein concentrations present in the first days after landing. Using an ANOVA approach, it was revealed that only 1 protein (S100A9) reliably responded to space flight conditions. This protein plays an important role in the functioning of the endothelium and can serve as a marker for activation of inflammatory reactions. Concentrations of the proteins of complement, coagulation cascades, and acute phase reactants increase in the blood of cosmonauts as measured the first day after landing. Most of these proteins' concentrations continue to increase by the 7th day after space flight. Similar dynamics are observed for proteases and their inhibitors. Thus, there is a shift in proteolytic blood systems, which is necessary for the restoration of muscle tissue and maintenance of oncotic homeostasis.

Keywords: Blood proteins; Cosmonauts; Mass spectrometry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Proteins / genetics
  • Blood Proteins / metabolism*
  • Calgranulin B / metabolism
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Humans
  • Isotope Labeling
  • Male
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Middle Aged
  • Proteomics / methods*
  • Space Flight*


  • Blood Proteins
  • Calgranulin B
  • S100A9 protein, human