Open Access Research article

Suboptimal evolutionary novel environments promote singular altered gravity responses of transcriptome during Drosophila metamorphosis

Raul Herranz12*, Oliver J Larkin3, Richard JA Hill4, Irene Lopez-Vidriero5, Jack JWA van Loon267 and F Javier Medina1

Author Affiliations

1 Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas (CSIC), Ramiro de Maeztu 9, E-28040, Madrid, Spain

2 DESC (Dutch Experiment Support Center)/MMG-Lab, European Space Research & Technology Center – European Space Agency (ESTEC-ESA) Keplerlaan, 1 2201 AZ, Noordwijk, The Netherlands

3 School of Biosciences, University of Nottingham, Sutton Bonington Campus, Loughborough LE12 5RD, UK

4 School of Physics & Astronomy, University of Nottingham, Nottingham NG7 2RD, UK

5 Centro Nacional de Biotecnología (UAM-CSIC), Madrid, Spain

6 Department Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery/Oral Pathology, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

7 Department Oral Cell Biology - Academic Centre for Dentistry Amsterdam (ACTA), VU University, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2013, 13:133  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-13-133

Published: 27 June 2013



Previous experiments have shown that the reduced gravity aboard the International Space Station (ISS) causes important alterations in Drosophila gene expression. These changes were shown to be intimately linked to environmental space-flight related constraints.


Here, we use an array of different techniques for ground-based simulation of microgravity effects to assess the effect of suboptimal environmental conditions on the gene expression of Drosophila in reduced gravity. A global and integrative analysis, using “gene expression dynamics inspector” (GEDI) self-organizing maps, reveals different degrees in the responses of the transcriptome when using different environmental conditions or microgravity/hypergravity simulation devices. Although the genes that are affected are different in each simulation technique, we find that the same gene ontology groups, including at least one large multigene family related with behavior, stress response or organogenesis, are over represented in each case.


These results suggest that the transcriptome as a whole can be finely tuned to gravity force. In optimum environmental conditions, the alteration of gravity has only mild effects on gene expression but when environmental conditions are far from optimal, the gene expression must be tuned greatly and effects become more robust, probably linked to the lack of experience of organisms exposed to evolutionary novel environments such as a gravitational free one.

Evolutionary genomics; Gene family evolution; Microgravity-hypergravity; Magnetic levitation; Gene expression; Microarray