Calcium (Ca2+) elevation is an essential secondary messenger in many cellular processes, including disease progression and adaptation to external stimuli, e.g., gravitational load. Therefore, mapping and quantifying Ca2+ signaling with a high spatiotemporal resolution is a key challenge. However, particularly on microgravity platforms, experiment time is limited, allowing only a small number of replicates. Furthermore, experiment hardware is exposed to changes in gravity levels, causing experimental artifacts unless appropriately controlled. We introduce a new experimental setup based on the fluorescent Ca2+ reporter CaMPARI2, onboard LED arrays, and subsequent microscopic analysis on the ground. This setup allows for higher throughput and accuracy due to its retrograde nature. The excellent performance of CaMPARI2 was demonstrated with human chondrocytes during the 75th ESA parabolic flight campaign. CaMPARI2 revealed a strong Ca2+ response triggered by histamine but was not affected by the alternating gravitational load of a parabolic flight.
Keywords: CaMPARI; articular chondrocytes; cytosolic free calcium; gravity; high throughput screening; parabolic flight.