Gravitational stress in general and microgravity (μg) in particular are regarded as major stress factors
responsible for immune system dysfunction in space. To assess the effects of alternating μg and hypergravity (hyperg) on immune cells, the attachment of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) to adhesion molecules under flow conditions and the antigen-induced immune activation in whole blood were investigated in parabolic flight (PF). In contrast to hyper-g (1.8 g) and control conditions (1 g), flow and rolling speed of PBMCs were moderately accelerated during μg-periods which were accompanied by a clear reduction in rolling rate. Whole blood analyses revealed a “primed” state of monocytes after PF with potentiated antigen-induced pro-inflammatory cytokine responses. At the same time, concentrations of anti-inflammatory cytokines were increased and monocytes displayed a surface molecule pattern that indicated immunosuppression. The results suggest an immunologic counterbalance to avoid disproportionate immune responses. Understanding the interrelation of immune system impairing and enhancing effects under different gravitational conditions may support the design of countermeasures to mitigate immune deficiencies in space.