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Microgravity effects on leaf morphology, cell structure, carbon metabolism and mRNA expression of dwarf wheat

Abstract

The use of higher plants as the basis for a biological life support system that regenerates the atmosphere, purifies water, and produces food has been proposed for long duration space missions. The objective of these experiments was to determine what effects microgravity (μg) had on chloroplast development, carbohydrate metabolism and gene expression in developing leaves of Triticum aestivum L. cv. USU Apogee. Gravity naive wheat plants were sampled from a series of seven 21-day experiments conducted during Increment IV of the International Space Station. These samples were fixed in either 3% glutaraldehyde or RNAlater or frozen at −25°C for subsequent analysis. In addition, leaf samples were collected from 24- and 14-day-old plants during the mission that were returned to Earth for analysis. Plants grown under identical light, temperature, relative humidity, photoperiod, CO2, and planting density were used as ground controls. At the morphological level, there was little difference in the development of cells of wheat under μg conditions. Leaves developed in μg have thinner cross-sectional area than the 1 g grown plants. Ultrastructurally, the chloroplasts of μg grown plants were more ovoid than those developed at 1 g, and the thylakoid membranes had a trend to greater packing density. No differences were observed in the starch, soluble sugar, or lignin content of the leaves grown in μg or 1 g conditions. Furthermore, no differences in gene expression were detected leaf samples collected at μg from 24-day-old leaves, suggesting that the spaceflight environment had minimal impact on wheat metabolism.

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Abbreviations

BLSS:

Bioregenerative life support system

BPS:

Biomass production system

BRIC:

Biological Research in Canisters

CDS:

Communication and data system

DAI:

Days after imbibition

ISS:

International Space Station

KSC:

Kennedy Space Center

LN2:

Liquid nitrogen

NASA:

National Aeronautics and Space Association

OES:

Orbiter environment simulator

P net :

Net photosynthesis rate

PAR:

Photosynthetically active radiation

PESTO:

Photosynthesis experiment system testing and operation

PGC:

Plant growth chamber

PPF:

Photosynthetic photon flux

PSI:

Photosystem I

PSII:

Photosystem II

QY:

Quantum yield

STS:

Space transport system

WCE:

Whole chain electron transport

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Acknowledgments

This research was funded in whole or in part by a grant from the Office of Biological and Physical Research of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The authors gratefully acknowledge support of Sylvia Anderson for data collection and summarization, F. Bennett, Electron Microscopy Core Facility, University of Florida, Gainesville for preparation of electron micrographs, M. Giroux, Montana State University, Bozeman MT for wheat microarrays, D. Laudencia-Chingcuanco, USDA, Albany, CA for hybridization of microarray chips, M. Popp, Molecular Biology Core Facility, University of Florida, Gainesville, for analysis of gene expression data, N. Chatterdon, USDA-ARS, Logan, UT for soluble sugar analysis. The authors acknowledge the support of personnel at Orbitec (Madison, WI), Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, Kennedy Space Center, FL, Johnson Space Center, TX, and Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL. Finally, the authors wish to express their gratitude to ISS Increment IV Flight Engineer Dan Bursch for his commitment to microgravity research.

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Stutte, G.W., Monje, O., Hatfield, R.D. et al. Microgravity effects on leaf morphology, cell structure, carbon metabolism and mRNA expression of dwarf wheat. Planta 224, 1038–1049 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00425-006-0290-4

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00425-006-0290-4

Keywords

  • Bioregeneration
  • Bioregenerative life support
  • Lignin
  • Carbohydrate metabolism
  • Microarray
  • Triticum aestivum L.