Circulating miRNA Spaceflight Signature Reveals Targets for Countermeasure Development

Cell Rep. 2020 Dec 8;33(10):108448. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2020.108448. Epub 2020 Nov 25.


We have identified and validated a spaceflight-associated microRNA (miRNA) signature that is shared by rodents and humans in response to simulated, short-duration and long-duration spaceflight. Previous studies have identified miRNAs that regulate rodent responses to spaceflight in low-Earth orbit, and we have confirmed the expression of these proposed spaceflight-associated miRNAs in rodents reacting to simulated spaceflight conditions. Moreover, astronaut samples from the NASA Twins Study confirmed these expression signatures in miRNA sequencing, single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq), and single-cell assay for transposase accessible chromatin (scATAC-seq) data. Additionally, a subset of these miRNAs (miR-125, miR-16, and let-7a) was found to regulate vascular damage caused by simulated deep space radiation. To demonstrate the physiological relevance of key spaceflight-associated miRNAs, we utilized antagomirs to inhibit their expression and successfully rescue simulated deep-space-radiation-mediated damage in human 3D vascular constructs.

Keywords: NASA; Twins Study; antagomirs; miRNA-seq; microRNA; microgravity; scATAC-seq; scRNA-seq; space radiation; spaceflight.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Circulating MicroRNA / genetics*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression
  • Gene Expression Profiling / methods
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • Middle Aged
  • Rats
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA / methods
  • Space Flight
  • Transcriptome / genetics
  • Weightlessness / adverse effects*
  • Weightlessness Simulation / methods


  • Circulating MicroRNA
  • MicroRNAs