Simulated Galactic Cosmic Rays Modify Mitochondrial Metabolism in Osteoclasts, Increase Osteoclastogenesis and Cause Trabecular Bone Loss in Mice

Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Oct 28;22(21):11711. doi: 10.3390/ijms222111711.


Space is a high-stress environment. One major risk factor for the astronauts when they leave the Earth's magnetic field is exposure to ionizing radiation from galactic cosmic rays (GCR). Several adverse changes occur in mammalian anatomy and physiology in space, including bone loss. In this study, we assessed the effects of simplified GCR exposure on skeletal health in vivo. Three months following exposure to 0.5 Gy total body simulated GCR, blood, bone marrow and tissue were collected from 9 months old male mice. The key findings from our cell and tissue analysis are (1) GCR induced femoral trabecular bone loss in adult mice but had no effect on spinal trabecular bone. (2) GCR increased circulating osteoclast differentiation markers and osteoclast formation but did not alter new bone formation or osteoblast differentiation. (3) Steady-state levels of mitochondrial reactive oxygen species, mitochondrial and non-mitochondrial respiration were increased without any changes in mitochondrial mass in pre-osteoclasts after GCR exposure. (4) Alterations in substrate utilization following GCR exposure in pre-osteoclasts suggested a metabolic rewiring of mitochondria. Taken together, targeting radiation-mediated mitochondrial metabolic reprogramming of osteoclasts could be speculated as a viable therapeutic strategy for space travel induced bone loss.

Keywords: bone loss; galactic cosmic rays; mitochondria; osteoblast; osteoclast; reactive oxygen species; redox; space radiation.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cancellous Bone / radiation effects*
  • Cosmic Radiation / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Mitochondria / radiation effects*
  • Osteoclasts / radiation effects*
  • Osteogenesis / radiation effects*