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Mammalian Vestibular Macular Synaptic Plasticity: Results from SLS-2 SpaceflightThe effects of exposure to microgravity were studied in rat utricular maculas collected inflight (IF, day 13), post-flight on day of orbiter landing (day 14, R+O) and after 14 days (R+ML). Controls were collected at corresponding times. The objectives were 1) to learn whether hair cell ribbon synapses counts would be higher in tissues collected in space than in tissues collected postflight during or after readaptation to Earth's gravity; and 2) to compare results with those of SLS-1. Maculas were fixed by immersion, micro-dissected, dehydrated and prepared for ultrastructural study by usual methods. Synapses were counted in 100 serial sections 150 nm thick and were located to specific hair cells in montages of every 7th section. Counts were analyzed for statistical significance using analysis of variance. Results in maculas of IF dissected rats, one 13 day control (IFC), and one R + 0 rat have been analyzed. Study of an R+ML macula is nearly completed. For type I cells, IF mean is 2.3 +/-1.6; IFC mean is 1.6 +/-1.0; R+O mean is 2.3 +/- 1.6. For type II cells, IF mean is 11.4 +/- 17.1; IFC mean is 5.5 +/-3.5; R+O mean is 10.1 +/- 7.4. The difference between IF and IFC means for type I cells is statistically significant (p less than 0.0464). For type It cells, IF compared to IFC means, p less than 0.0003; and for IFC to R+O means, p less than 0.0139. Shifts toward spheres (p less than 0.0001) and pairs (p less than 0.0139) were significant in type II cells of IF rats. The results are largely replicating findings from SLS-1 and indicate that spaceflight affects synaptic number, form and distribution, particularly in type II hair cells. The increases in synaptic number and in sphere-like ribbons are interpreted to improve synaptic efficacy, to help return afferent discharges to a more normal state. Findings indicate that a great capacity for synaptic plasticity exists in mammalian gravity sensors, and that this plasticity is more dominant in the local circuitry. The local circuit includes type II cells and is interpreted to be responsible for shaping the final output of the system.
Document ID
Document Type
Preprint (Draft being sent to journal)
Ross, Muriel D.D. (NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA United States)
Date Acquired
August 20, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 1994
Subject Category
Life Sciences (General)
Meeting Information
American Society for Gravitational and Space Biology(San Francisco, CA)
Funding Number(s)
PROJECT: RTOP 199-40-42-01
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.