, Volume 105, Issue 1, pp 53-70

Changes in plant growth processes under microgravity conditions simulated by a three-dimensional clinostat

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We developed a three-dimensional (3-D) clinostat to simulate a microgravity environment and studied the changes in plant growth processes under this condition. The rate of germination of cress (Lepidium sativum), maize (Zea mays), rice (Oryza sativa), pea (Pisum sativum), or azuki bean (Vigna angularis) was not affected on the clinostat. The clinostat rotation did not influence the growth rate of their roots or shoots, except for a slight promotion of growth in azuki roots and epicotyls. On the contrary, the direction of growth of plant organs clearly changed on the 3-D clinostat. On the surface of the earth, roots grow downward while shoots upward in parallel to the gravity vector. On the 3-D clinostat, roots of cress elongated along the direction of the tip of root primordia after having changed the direction continuously. Rice roots also grew parallel to the direction of the tip of root primordia. On the other hand, roots of maize, pea, and azuki bean grew in a random fashion. The direction of growth of shoots was more controlled even on the 3-D clinostat. In a front view of embryos, shoots grew mostly along the direction of the tip of primordia. In a side view, rice coleoptiles showed an adaxial (toward the caryopsis) while coleoptiles of maize and epicotyls of pea and azuki bean an abaxial curvature. The curvature of shoots became larger with their growth. Such an autotropism may have an important role in regulation of life cycle of higher plants under a microgravity environment.