The effects of long-term exposure to extreme space conditions on astronauts were investigated by analyzing hair samples from ten astronauts who had spent six months on the International Space Station (ISS). Two samples were collected before, during and after their stays in the ISS; hereafter, referred to as Preflight, Inflight and Postflight, respectively. The ratios of mitochondrial (mt) to nuclear (n) DNA and mtRNA to nRNA were analyzed via quantitative PCR. The combined data of Preflight, Inflight and Postflight show a significant reduction in the mtDNA/nDNA in Inflight, and significant reductions in the mtRNA/nRNA ratios in both the Inflight and Postflight samples. The mtRNA/mtDNA ratios were relatively constant, except in the Postflight samples. Using the same samples, the expression of redox and signal transduction related genes, MnSOD, CuZnSOD, Nrf2, Keap1, GPx4 and Catalase was also examined. The results of the combined data from Preflight, Inflight and Postflight show a significant decrease in the expression of all of the redox-related genes in the samples collected Postflight, with the exception of Catalase, which show no change. This decreased expression may contribute to increased oxidative stress Inflight resulting in the mitochondrial damage that is apparent Postflight.

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Published in Scientific Reports, v. 6, article no. 39015, p. 1-10.

© The Author(s) 2016

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This study was supported in part by the JAXA-ISS Space Medicine Program Grant from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

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Supplementary Information: Supplementary Figure S1-S15