• Premise of the study: Plants will be an important component of advanced life support systems during space exploration missions. Therefore, understanding their biology in the spacecraft environment will be essential before they can be used for such systems.• Methods: Seedlings of Arabidopsis thaliana were grown for 2 wk in the Biological Research in Canisters (BRIC) hardware on board the second to the last mission of the space shuttle Discovery (STS-131). Transcript profiles between ground controls and space-grown seedlings were compared using stringent selection criteria.• Key results: Expression of transcripts associated with oxidative stress and cell wall remodeling was repressed in microgravity. These downregulated genes were previously shown to be enriched in root hairs consistent with seedling phenotypes observed in space. Mutations in genes that were downregulated in microgravity, including two uncharacterized root hair-expressed class III peroxidase genes (PRX44 and PRX57), led to defective polar root hair growth on Earth. PRX44 and PRX57 mutants had ruptured root hairs, which is a typical phenotype of tip-growing cells with defective cell walls and those subjected to stress.• Conclusions: Long-term exposure to microgravity negatively impacts tip growth by repressing expression of genes essential for normal root hair development. Whereas changes in peroxidase gene expression leading to reduced root hair growth in space are actin-independent, root hair development modulated by phosphoinositides could be dependent on the actin cytoskeleton. These results have profound implications for plant adaptation to microgravity given the importance of tip growing cells such as root hairs for efficient nutrient capture.
Research Containing: Cell wall remodeling
Life in spaceflight demonstrates remarkable acclimation processes within the specialized habitats of vehicles subjected to the myriad of unique environmental issues associated with orbital trajectories. To examine the response processes that occur in plants in space, leaves and roots from Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) seedlings from three GFP reporter lines that were grown from seed for 12 days on the International Space Station and preserved on orbit in RNAlater were returned to Earth and analyzed by using iTRAQ broad-scale proteomics procedures. Using stringent criteria, we identified over 1500 proteins, which included 1167 leaf proteins and 1150 root proteins we were able to accurately quantify. Quantification revealed 256 leaf proteins and 358 root proteins that showed statistically significant differential abundance in the spaceflight samples compared to ground controls, with few proteins differentially regulated in common between leaves and roots. This indicates that there are measurable proteomics responses to spaceflight and that the responses are organ-specific. These proteomics data were compared with transcriptome data from similar spaceflight samples, showing that there is a positive but limited relationship between transcriptome and proteome regulation of the overall spaceflight responses of plants. These results are discussed in terms of emergence understanding of plant responses to spaceflight particularly with regard to cell wall remodeling, as well as in the context of deriving multiple omics data sets from a single on-orbit preservation and operations approach.