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Investigations of the Plant Cytoskeleton in Microgravity With Gene Profiling and Cytochemistry (ARC00XX49)
Principal Investigator
Research Area:
Cell and molecular biology
Species Studied
Scientific Name: Arabidopsis thaliana Species: Mouse-ear cress

The major goal of this research is to study the effects of microgravity on the structure and organization of actin cytoskeleton in plants. This proposed project builds on our previous ground-based and spaceflight research using the model plant Arabidopsis. Thus, the specific aims of this proposed flight research using the BRIC-LED system are: (1) to investigate plastid position in statocytes (=gravity-perceiving cells) in microgravity; (2) to determine the effect of microgravity on the actin cytoskeletal organization in gravity-perceiving cells; (3) to study microgravity effects on actin cytoskeleton-related gene expression in plant cells. This project also will allow us to directly correlate results from cytological investigations and gene profiling in order to understand the nature of the actin cytoskeleton in mechanisms of gravity perception.

The NASA Biological Research in Canisters (BRIC) -16 project offered a unique opportunity to conduct a spaceflight experiment with minimal preparation time. Procedures were adapted from previous spaceflight studies conducted by our lab on the Space Shuttle and the ISS. Seedlings of Arabidopsis thaliana were grown from seed on the shuttle Discovery mission STS-131 in the BRIC- Petri Dish Fixation Unit (PDFU) flight hardware. After fourteen days of growth, samples were then stabilized by either an aldehyde-based fixative or RNAlater. We compared flight samples with a ground sample control, which was conducted in the flight hardware at 1g. Through additional studies, samples will be analyzed using molecular genetic techniques and three methods of microscopy including light (LM), transmission electron (TEM), and confocal. LM will be used to understand any overall anatomical differences and the placement of the statoliths. TEM will elucidate the interaction between statoliths and the sub-cellular structures such as cytoskeleton and organelles. Confocal microscopy will show us the structural differences in the development of the actin cytoskeleton between ground and flight.

Data is available through GeneLab at

Millar KD, Johnson CM, Edelmann RE, Kiss JZ. An endogenous growth pattern of roots is revealed in seedlings grown in microgravity. Astrobiology. 2011 Oct;11(8):787-97. [DOI]

McCoshum, S and Kiss, JZ. (2011). Green light affects blue-light-based phototropism in hypocotyls of Arabidopsis thaliana. The Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society, 138(4), 409-417. [DOI]

Johnson CM, Subramanian A, Edelmann RE, Kiss JZ. Morphometric analyses of petioles of seedlings grown in a spaceflight experiment. J Plant Res. 2015 Nov;128(6):1007-16. [DOI]

Johnson CM, Subramanian A, Pattathil S, Correll MJ, Kiss JZ.Comparative transcriptomics indicate changes in cell wall organization and stress response in seedlings during spaceflight. Am J Bot. 2017 Aug 21. [DOI]


Data Information
Data Availability
Archive is complete. No data sets are available for this experiment. Please Contact LSDA if you know of available data for this investigation.

Growth, germination, Arabidopsis thaliana seeds, observation
Morphology, Arabidopsis seedling, plant, Microscopy

Mission/Study Information
Mission Launch/Start Date Landing/End Date Duration
STS-131 04/05/2010 04/20/2010 15 days

Additional Information
Managing NASA Center
Ames Research Center (ARC)
Responsible NASA Representative
Kennedy Space Center LSDA Level 3
Project Manager: Martha Del Alto
Institutional Support
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Proposal Date
Proposal Source
2009 Space Life Sciences