Changes in gravitational force cause changes in gene expression in the lens of developing zebrafish



Gravity has been a constant physical factor during the evolution and development of life on Earth. We have been studying effects of simulated microgravity on gene expression in transgenic zebrafish embryos expressing gfp under the influence of gene-specific promoters. In this study, we assessed the effect of microgravity on the expression of the heat shock protein 70 (hsp70) gene in lens during development using transgenic zebrafish embryos expressing gfp under the control of hsp70 promoter/enhancer. Hsp70:gfp expression was up-regulated (45%) compared with controls during the developmental period that included the lens differentiation stage. This increase was lens specific, because the entire embryo showed only a 4% increase in gfp expression. Northern blot and in situ hybridization analysis indicated that the hsp70:gfp expression recapitulated endogenous hsp70 mRNA expression. Hypergravity exposure also increased hsp70 expression during the same period. In situ hybridization analysis for two lens-specific crystallin genes revealed that neither micro- nor hypergravity affected the expression level of βB1-crystallin, a non-hsp gene used as a marker for lens differentiation. However, hypergravity changed the expression level of αA-crystallin, a member of the small hsp gene family. Terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase–mediated deoxyuridinetriphosphate nick end-labeling (TUNEL) assay analysis showed that altered-gravity (Δg) decreased apoptosis in lens during the same period and the decrease correlated with the up-regulation of hsp70 expression, suggesting that elimination of nuclei from differentiating lens fiber cells was suppressed probably through hsp70 up-regulation. These results support the idea that Δg influences hsp70 expression and differentiation in lens-specific and developmental period specific manners and that hsp family genes play a specific role in the response to Δg. Developmental Dynamics 235:2686–2694, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.