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Morphometric analyses of petioles of seedlings grown in a spaceflight experiment.

Journal of plant research (2015-09-18)
Christina M Johnson, Aswati Subramanian, Richard E Edelmann, John Z Kiss
ABSTRACT

Gravity is a constant unidirectional stimulus on Earth, and gravitropism in plants involves three phases: perception, transduction, and response. In shoots, perception takes place within the endodermis. To investigate the cellular machinery of perception in microgravity, we conducted a spaceflight study with Arabidopsis thaliana seedlings, which were grown in microgravity in darkness using the Biological Research in Canisters (BRIC) hardware during space shuttle mission STS-131. In the 14-day-old etiolated plants, we studied seedling development and the morphological parameters of the endodermal cells in the petiole. Seedlings from the spaceflight experiment (FL) were compared to a ground control (GC), which both were in the BRIC flight hardware. In addition, to assay any potential effects from growth in spaceflight hardware, we performed another control by growing seedlings in Petri dishes in standard laboratory conditions (termed the hardware control, HC). Seed germination was significantly lower in samples grown in flight hardware (FL, GC) compared to the HC. In terms of cellular parameters of endodermal cells, the greatest differences also were between seedlings grown in spaceflight hardware (FL, GC) compared to those grown outside of this hardware (HC). Specifically, the endodermal cells were significantly smaller in seedlings grown in the BRIC system compared to those in the HC. However, a change in the shape of the cell, suggesting alterations in the cell wall, was one parameter that appears to be a true microgravity effect. Taken together, our results suggest that caution must be taken when interpreting results from the increasingly utilized BRIC spaceflight hardware system and that it is important to perform additional ground controls to aid in the analysis of spaceflight experiments.

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