Long-term simulated microgravity fosters carotid aging-like changes via Piezo1

Cardiovasc Res. 2024 Apr 30;120(5):548-559. doi: 10.1093/cvr/cvae024.


Aims: Elucidating the impacts of long-term spaceflight on cardiovascular health is urgently needed in face of the rapid development of human space exploration. Recent reports including the NASA Twins Study on vascular deconditioning and aging of astronauts in spaceflight are controversial. The aims of this study were to elucidate whether long-term microgravity promotes vascular aging and the underlying mechanisms.

Methods and results: Hindlimb unloading (HU) by tail suspension was used to simulate microgravity in rats and mice. The dynamic changes of carotid stiffness in rats during 8 weeks of HU were determined. Simulated microgravity led to carotid artery aging-like changes as evidenced by increased stiffness, thickness, fibrosis, and elevated senescence biomarkers in the HU rats. Specific deletion of the mechanotransducer Piezo1 in vascular smooth muscles significantly blunted these aging-like changes in mice. Mechanistically, mechanical stretch-induced activation of Piezo1 elevated microRNA-582-5p in vascular smooth muscle cells, with resultant enhanced synthetic cell phenotype and increased collagen deposition via PTEN/PI3K/Akt signalling. Importantly, inhibition of miRNA-582-5p alleviated carotid fibrosis and stiffness not only in HU rats but also in aged rats.

Conclusions: Long-term simulated microgravity induces carotid aging-like changes via the mechanotransducer Piezo1-initiated and miRNA-mediated mechanism.

Keywords: Carotid stiffness; Mechanical stretch; MicroRNA; Microgravity; Piezo1; Vascular aging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging / metabolism
  • Aging / pathology
  • Animals
  • Carotid Arteries* / metabolism
  • Carotid Arteries* / pathology
  • Carotid Arteries* / physiopathology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Fibrosis
  • Hindlimb Suspension
  • Ion Channels* / genetics
  • Ion Channels* / metabolism
  • Mechanotransduction, Cellular* / genetics
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • MicroRNAs* / genetics
  • MicroRNAs* / metabolism
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular* / metabolism
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular* / pathology
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular* / physiopathology
  • Myocytes, Smooth Muscle* / metabolism
  • Myocytes, Smooth Muscle* / pathology
  • PTEN Phosphohydrolase / genetics
  • PTEN Phosphohydrolase / metabolism
  • Phenotype
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Signal Transduction
  • Time Factors
  • Vascular Remodeling
  • Vascular Stiffness*
  • Weightlessness Simulation*


  • Ion Channels
  • MicroRNAs
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • Piezo1 protein, mouse
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • PTEN Phosphohydrolase
  • Pten protein, mouse