Transgenic Arabidopsis Gene Expression System - Intracellular Signaling Architecture (APEX-03-2 TAGES-Isa) - 09.17.14

Overview | Description | Applications | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery
ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
TAGES-Isa will utilize the VEGGIE facility on ISS. The TAGES-Isa investigation will focus on the growth and development of Arabidopsis thaliana seedlings in the spaceflight environment. Specimens will be harvested on-orbit, preserved with a chemical fixative, and returned to the ground for post-flight evaluation.

Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by Robert J. Ferl, Ph.D., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.

Experiment Details


Principal Investigator(s)

  • Robert J. Ferl, Ph.D., University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, United States

  • Co-Investigator(s)/Collaborator(s)
  • Anna-Lisa Paul, Ph.D., University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, United States

  • Developer(s)
    Kennedy Space Center, , FL, United States

    Sponsoring Space Agency
    National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

    Sponsoring Organization
    Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD)

    Research Benefits
    Information Pending

    ISS Expedition Duration
    September 2014 - March 2015

    Expeditions Assigned

    Previous ISS Missions

    TAGES-ISA builds upon the previously flown Plant Growth Investigations in Microgravity (PGIM) experiment which flew on STS-93, the Biological Research in Canisters (BRIC)-16 experiment which flew on STS-131, and the Transgenic Arabidopsis Gene Expression System (TAGES) experiment which flew in ABRS during Increments 19-24.

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    Experiment Description

    Research Overview

    • Plants experiencing spaceflight are quite normal in appearance but can exhibit growth habits distinctly different from plants on earth. This research will explore the molecular biology guiding the altered growth of plants in spaceflight.

    • TAGES-Isa will specifically addresses growth and molecular changes that occur in Arabidopsis thaliana plants during spaceflight. By using molecular and genetic tools, fundamental questions regarding root structure, growth and cell wall remodeling may be answered.
    • This investigation will advance the fundamental understanding of the molecular biological responses to extraterrestrial environments. This understanding helps to further define the impacts of spaceflight on biological systems to better enable NASA’s future space exploration goals. 


    Plants experiencing spaceflight are quite normal in appearance but can exhibit growth habits distinctly different from plants on earth. Historically the spaceflight-induced differences were difficult to dissect due to changing hardware and flight conditions. With the ABRS and a consistent ISS orbital environment, it is now possible to confidently approach a dissection of the molecular biology guiding the altered growth of plants in spaceflight. TAGES-ISA involves experiments that specifically address growth and molecular changes in Arabidopsis that occur during spaceflight, bringing the molecular and genetic tools of Arabidopsis to bear on fundamental questions of root morphology, growth and cell wall remodeling. During the APEX-TAGES experiments, we observed a remarkable number of gene expression changes during spaceflight that are associated with cell wall restructuring, especially in roots. We also observed, with the ABRS/Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) imaging system, genetically dependent changes in root growth direction, movement and structure. The current experiments will employ the ABRS and the GFP Imager to dissect and better understand the molecular changes guiding growth restructuring on orbit. In particular we hypothesize that spaceflight conditions engender a constant state of root cell wall modification during the cell file rotations that characterize spaceflight-induced root skewing. The specific experiments will involve mutants in root growth and cell wall signaling pathways identified in our previous spaceflight molecular studies, as well as new GFP biosensor lines also based on the genes identified in the previous flight experiments.

    The overall goal of our program is to understand fundamental molecular biological responses to extraterrestrial environments. This goal aligns with fundamental space biology goals to understand the impact of spaceflight on biological systems to better enable the exploration imperative. We have used molecular biology and genetically tagged plants as biological monitors of spaceflight and space-related environments with great science return, leading to the development of new biological and hardware tools to study the spaceflight response with even higher fidelity in a wider variety of spaceflight-related environments. The focus of the current proposal is to build on these data and other insights gained from the execution of the APEX-TAGES experiments in the ABRS/GFP Imager, advancing science while also advancing the telemetric imaging hardware and biological experiment support for the ISS and future platforms. Gaining insight into such mechanisms is recognized as fundamental within the decadal study and underpin answers to some of the biggest questions in spaceflight plant biology.

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    Space Applications

    Previous investigations by the TAGES-ISA research team pioneered the use of RNALater as an on-orbit fixative for gene expression analysis and calibrated Arabidopsis RNA extraction procedures as related to spaceflight fixation in RNALater. The TAGES-ISA research team also pioneered on-orbit Green Flourescent Protein (GFP) imaging. Both of these tools are extremely valuable for conducting a wide variety of biological investigations in space.

    Earth Applications
    As with all basic research, an improved understanding of the basic growth and environmental response phenomena of living organisms has important implications for improving growth and biomass production on Earth, thus benefitting the average citizen.

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    Operational Requirements

    • Time between launch and Run 1 installation into ABRS GFP Imager: 5-12 days
    • Experiment run duration: 10-12 days
      • Previous run harvest and next run installation should be scheduled on the same day
    • Time between harvest and MELFI insertion: ≥24 hours
    • Downlink of GFP images required daily
    • Harvest photos required; request live video of harvest operations when possible
    • Only the Water Refill Kit and KFTs return
      • KFTs return at -20°C in Cold Bag

    Operational Protocols

    ABRS will be prepared for the TAGES-ISA experiment by filling the ABRS water reservoir and installing the ABRS Air Filter Cartridge. To start Run 1 of the TAGES-ISA experiment, six petri plates will be removed from a Nomex bag and transferred to the ABRS GFP Imager. GFP and white light images will be downlinked on a daily basis. After an experiment duration of 10-12 days, the GFP Imager will be removed from ABRS and transferred to the Maintenance Work Area for the harvest activity. Each petri plate will be removed from the GFP Imager, photographed, and harvested. The harvest activity will require the crewmember to use forceps to pull the plants from the agar surface on the petri plate. The plants will be placed into a KFT and actuated to deliver the RNALater chemical preservative to the plants. The harvest procedure will be completed for each of the six petri plates. Upon completion of the harvest, the petri plates for the next run will be inserted into the GFP Imager and the GFP Imager will be transferred back to ABRS. Twenty-four hours following the harvest, the KFTs will be transferred to MELFI at -80°C. A total of three harvests will be completed. At the conclusion of the final harvest, a desiccant pack will be inserted into the GFP Imager, the ABRS water reservoir will be drained, ABRS will be powered down, and the Water Refill Kit and APEX-03 Science Spares Kit will return at ambient and the KFTs will return at -20°C.

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    Results/More Information
    Information Pending

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    Results Publications

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    Ground Based Results Publications

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    ISS Patents

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    Related Publications

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    Related Websites

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