Understanding the effects of space radiation and microgravity on DNA integrity is critical to assess the impact of long-term spaceflight. However, studying spaceflight’s effect on terrestrial life is difficult. NASA created GeneLab, a public Omics database for spaceflight-related data, to help combat these limitations. While GeneLab has very few DNA-based data sets, transcriptome information is abundant. Researchers from North Carolina State University used RNA-Seq data from GeneLab to examine DNA sequence variants linked to spaceflight stress exposure. More mutations were observed in spaceflight samples than in the ground control samples. This increase in variants was not reduced in samples grown under artificial gravity in space, suggesting that microgravity did not significantly affect the amount of DNA damage in this experiment. There was also an increase in transversion mutations, consistent with known forms of radiation-induced damage. This work demonstrates that RNA-Seq data is a useful resource for evaluating DNA damage from spaceflight and provides a baseline for the types of mutations that could be detected.
GeneLab experiments encompass many different biological assays. (A) The distributions of these experiments are slightly different between all GeneLab experiments and (B) those experiments with a spaceflight component. Transcriptomic information obtained through microarray and RNA-Seq are the most common type of data on GeneLab.