* PREMISE OF THE STUDY: In spaceflight experiments, tissues for morphologic study are fixed in 3% glutaraldehyde, while tissues for molecular study are fixed in RNAlater; thus, an experiment containing both study components requires multiple fixation strategies. The possibility of using RNAlater-fixed materials for standard SEM-based morphometric investigation was explored to expand the library of tissues available for analysis and maximize usage of samples returned from spaceflight, but these technologies have wide application to any situation where recovery of biological resources is limited. * METHODS AND RESULTS: RNAlater-fixed samples were desalinated in distilled water, dehydrated through graded methanol, plunged into liquid ethane, and transferred to cryovials for freeze-substitution. Sample tissues were critical point dried, mounted, sputter-coated, and imaged. * CONCLUSIONS: The protocol resulted in acceptable SEM images from RNAlater-fixed Arabidopsis thaliana tissue. The majority of the tissues remained intact, including general morphology and finer details such as root hairs and trichomes.
Research Containing: Tissue Preservation
Spaceflight experiments involving biological specimens face unique challenges with regard to the on orbit harvest and preservation of material for later ground-based analyses. Preserving plant material for gene expression analyses requires that the tissue be prepared and stored in a manner that maintains the integrity of RNA. The liquid preservative RNAlater (Ambion) provides an effective alternative to conventional freezing strategies, which are limited or unavailable in current spaceflight experiment scenarios. The spaceflight use of RNAlater is enabled by the Kennedy space center fixation tube (KFT), hardware designed to provide the necessary containment of fixatives during the harvest and stowage of biological samples in space. Pairing RNAlater with the KFT system provides a safe and effective strategy for preserving plant material for subsequent molecular analyses, a strategy that has proven effective in several spaceflight experiments. Possible spaceflight scenarios for the use of RNAlater and KFTs are explored and discussed.