The microgravity environment aboard orbiting spacecraft has provided a unique laboratory to explore topics in basic plant biology as well as applied research on the use of plants in bioregenerative life support systems. Our group has utilized the European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS) aboard the International Space Station (ISS) to study plant growth, development, tropisms, and gene expression in a series of spaceflight experiments. The most current project performed on the ISS was termed Seedling Growth-1 (SG-1) which builds on the previous TROPI (for tropisms) experiments performed in 2006 and 2010. Major technical and operational changes in SG-1 (launched in March 2013) compared to the TROPI experiments include: (1) improvements in lighting conditions within the EMCS to optimize the environment for phototropism studies, (2) the use of infrared illumination to provide high-quality images of the seedlings, (3) modifications in procedures used in flight to improve the focus and overall quality of the images, and (4) changes in the atmospheric conditions in the EMCS incubator. In SG-1, a novel red-light-based phototropism in roots and hypocotyls of seedlings that was noted in TROPI was confirmed and now can be more precisely characterized based on the improvements in procedures. The lessons learned from sequential experiments in the TROPI hardware provide insights to other researchers developing space experiments in plant biology.
Research Containing: hypocotyls
Growth and Cell Wall Properties in Hypocotyls of Arabidopsis tua6 Mutant under Microgravity Conditions in Space
Seedlings of Arabidopsis α-tubulin 6 mutant (tua6) were cultivated under microgravity conditions in the European Modular Cultivation System on the International Space Station, and growth and cell wall properties of their hypocotyls were analyzed (the Resist Wall experiment). Seeds of tua6 mutant were shown to germinate and grow normally until the seedling stage under microgravity conditions, as at 1 G on the ground. The seedlings were naturally air-dried in orbit, which were then recovered and transported to earth. When the mechanical properties of the cell wall of rehydrated hypocotyls were examined with a tensile tester, the hypocotyls showed typical stress-strain and stress-relaxation curves, as normally fixed or frozen materials. Also, no prominent differences were detected in the extensibility or the stress-relaxation parameters of the cell wall between space-grown hypocotyls and ground controls, suggesting that tua6 hypocotyls formed the regular cell wall architecture under microgravity conditions. The results and lessons learned from the Resist Wall experiment are expected to provide the basis for the following space experiments to clarify the mechanism of gravity resistance in plants.