Bdelloid rotifers as model system to study developmental biology in space
Ricci, C., et al. (2003). "Bdelloid rotifers as model system to study developmental biology in space." Advances in space biology and medicine 9: 25-39
Bdelloid rotifers are suitable model systems for space experiments. Due to their developmental pattern they appear adequate to investigate the role of the cytoskeleton during oogenesis and during early developmental stages, and to reflect the effects of disturbances in the spatial arrangement of cytoskeletal components. The effect of weightlessness on the developmental pattern of a bdelloid rotifer will be studied in the International Space Station: in preparation for it we are performing ground-based experiments on the development of rotifer embryos under either increased or decreased gravity. The model studied is Macrotrachela quadricornifera, a species of rotifers belonging to the Bdelloidea class. Samples exposed to gravity disturbance were analyzed for morphology and fitness-related parameters. Rotifers were exposed over several days to altered gravity conditions and the morphology of eggs laid during this period were investigated using a confocal laser microscope. A subset of eggs was allowed to hatch to determine newborn developmental time and age at maturity. High (up to 20g) gravity was obtained in a slow centrifuge suitable for animal cultivation over several days. To produce low (simulated 0.0001g) gravity a Random Positioning Machine equipped with a ‘rotifer bioreactor’ was used. Under all conditions the rotifer retained normal life-history traits, and did not show permanent changes in embryo morphology, regardless to the stresses to which it was exposed. Only some modification of the shape of early embryos, experiencing 20g, has been noted, but later developmental stages appeared unaffected, and normal juveniles hatched. Whether this result indicates any capacity to repair damage during embryogenesis of these Spiralia experiencing 20g is an open question. The significance of the result as well as the use of instruments to simulate gravity perturbations are discussed.