Astronauts undergo significant microgravity-induced bone loss during space missions, which has become one of the three major medical problems hindering human’s long-term space flight. A risk-free and antiresorptive drug is urgently needed to prevent bone loss during space missions. D-mannose is a natural C-2 epimer of D-glucose and is abundant in cranberries. This study aimed to investigate the protective effects and potential mechanisms of D-mannose against bone loss under weightlessness.
The hind legs of tail-suspended (TS) rats were used to mimic weightlessness on Earth. Rats were administered D-mannose intragastrically. The osteoclastogenic and osteogenic capacity of D-mannose in vitro and in vivo was analyzed by micro-computed tomography, biomechanical assessment, bone histology, serum markers of bone metabolism, cell proliferation assay, quantitative polymerase chain reaction, and western blotting. RNA-seq transcriptomic analysis was performed to detect the underlying mechanisms of D-mannose in bone protection.
The TS rats showed lower bone mineral density (BMD) and poorer bone morphological indices. D-mannose could improve BMD in TS rats. D-mannose inhibited osteoclast proliferation and fusion in vitro, without apparent effects on osteoblasts. RNA-seq transcriptomic analysis showed that D-mannose administration significantly inhibited the cell fusion molecule dendritic cell-specific transmembrane protein (DC-STAMP) and two indispensable transcription factors for osteoclast fusion (c-Fos and nuclear factor of activated T cells 1 [NFATc1]). Finally, TS rats tended to experience dysuria-related urinary tract infections (UTIs), which were suppressed by treatment with D-mannose.
D-mannose protected against bone loss and UTIs in rats under weightlessness. The bone protective effects of D-mannose were mediated by inhibiting osteoclast cell fusion. Our findings provide a potential strategy to protect against bone loss and UTIs during space missions.

© 2023. The Author(s).