Characterization of mouse ocular response to a 35-day spaceflight mission: Evidence of blood-retinal barrier disruption and ocular adaptations. Academic Article uri icon


  • The health risks associated with spaceflight-induced ocular structural and functional damage has become a recent concern for NASA. The goal of the present study was to characterize the effects of spaceflight and reentry to 1g on the structure and integrity of the retina and blood-retinal barrier (BRB) in the eye. To investigate possible mechanisms, changes in protein expression profiles were examined in mouse ocular tissue after spaceflight. Ten week old male C57BL/6 mice were launched to the International Space Station (ISS) on Space-X 12 at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) on August, 2017. After a 35-day mission, mice were returned to Earth alive. Within 38+/-4 hours of splashdown, mice were euthanized and ocular tissues were collected for analysis. Ground control (GC) and vivarium control mice were maintained on Earth in flight hardware or normal vivarium cages respectively. Repeated intraocular pressure (IOP) measurements were performed before the flight launch and re-measured before the mice were euthanized after splashdown. IOP was significantly lower in post-flight measurements compared to that of pre-flight (14.4-19.3mmHg vs 16.3-20.3mmHg) (p<0.05) for the left eye. Flight group had significant apoptosis in the retina and retinal vascular endothelial cells compared to control groups (p<0.05). Immunohistochemical analysis of the retina revealed that an increased expression of aquaporin-4 (AQP-4) in the flight mice compared to controls gave strong indication of disturbance of BRB integrity. There were also a significant increase in the expression of platelet endothelial cell adhesion molecule-1 (PECAM-1) and a decrease in the expression of the BRB-related tight junction protein, Zonula occludens-1 (ZO-1). Proteomic analysis showed that many key proteins and pathways responsible for cell death, cell cycle, immune response, mitochondrial function and metabolic stress were significantly altered in the flight mice compared to ground control animals. These data indicate a complex cellular response that may alter retina structure and BRB integrity following long-term spaceflight.

published proceedings

  • Sci Rep

altmetric score

  • 0.75

author list (cited authors)

  • Mao, X. W., Nishiyama, N. C., Byrum, S. D., Stanbouly, S., Jones, T., Drew, A., ... Pecaut, M. J.

citation count

  • 21

complete list of authors

  • Mao, Xiao W||Nishiyama, Nina C||Byrum, Stephanie D||Stanbouly, Seta||Jones, Tamako||Drew, Alyson||Sridharan, Vijayalakshmi||Boerma, Marjan||Tackett, Alan J||Zawieja, David||Willey, Jeffrey S||Delp, Michael||Pecaut, Michael J

publication date

  • June 2019