Proteome-wide Adaptations of Mouse Skeletal Muscles during a Full Month in Space

The safety of space flight is challenged by a severe loss of skeletal muscle mass, strength, and endurance that may compromise the health and performance of astronauts. The molecular mechanisms underpinning muscle atrophy and decreased performance have been studied mostly after short duration flights and are still not fully elucidated. By deciphering the muscle proteome changes elicited in mice after a full month aboard the BION-M1 biosatellite, we observed that the antigravity soleus incurred the greatest changes compared with locomotor muscles. Proteomics data notably suggested mitochondrial dysfunction, metabolic and fiber type switching toward glycolytic type II fibers, structural alterations, and calcium signaling-related defects to be the main causes for decreased muscle performance in flown mice. Alterations of the protein balance, mTOR pathway, myogenesis, and apoptosis were expected to contribute to muscle atrophy. Moreover, several signs reflecting alteration of telomere maintenance, oxidative stress, and insulin resistance were found as possible additional deleterious effects. Finally, 8 days of recovery post flight were not sufficient to restore completely flight-induced changes. Thus in-depth proteomics analysis unraveled the complex and multifactorial remodeling of skeletal muscle structure and function during long-term space flight, which should help define combined sets of countermeasures before, during, and after the flight.