The Role of Microtubule-Membrane-Cell Wall Continuum in Gravity Resistance in Plants (Resist Wall) investigation was conducted to determine the importance of the structural connections between microtubules, plasma membrane, and the cell wall as the mechanism of gravity resistance. The results of this investigation support future plans to cultivate plants on long-duration exploration missions.Principal Investigator(s)
Astrium GmbH, Immenstaad, , Germany
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)Sponsoring Organization
Information PendingResearch Benefits
Information PendingISS Expedition Duration:
October 2007 - October 2008Expeditions Assigned
16,17Previous ISS Missions
While Resist Wall was a new experiment during Increments 16 and 17, other studies of plant growth and development have been conducted on the ISS. The Analysis of a Novel Sensory Mechanism in Root Phototropism (Tropi) and Threshold Acceleration for Gravisensing (Gravi) payloads were operated during ISS Increment 14.
The Resist Wall investigation examined the resistance to gravitational force in Arabidopsis thaliana plants. Ground studies indicated that structural or physiological continuum of microtubule-plasma membrane-cell wall is responsible for gravity resistance. Resist Wall aimed to prove this hypothesis by examining A. thaliana plants on the International Space Station (ISS).
Under hypergravity conditions, the unfavorable phenotypes were intensified and exhibited a low viability. However, it was highly expected that the defects of such mutants would be rescued and could grow and develop normally as wild types in microgravity, where formation of the tough cell wall is not required. To confirm this expectation, mutant strains were cultivated under microgravity and at 1G conditions on the ISS up to the reproductive stage. Phenotypes concerning growth and development were compared using video images. Also, using plant materials frozen on orbit and on Earth, analysis was performed to assess changes in expression of genes involved in formation of microtubules, plasma membrane, cell walls, and levels of related cellular components.
The Resist Wall investigation tested four strains of A. thaliana; the wild type (normal function of microtubule-associated proteins), lefty (showed disordered growth patterns on Earth), hmg1 (defective in formation of cortical microtubules) and gene modified wild-type (Promoter GUS (glucuronidase) introduced).
Resist Wall operations occurred in the European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS) facility; a multi-user experiment facility for biological investigations under microgravity. EMCS allows cultivation, stimulation and crew assisted operation of biological experiments under well controlled conditions. The Plant Cultivation Chamber (PCC), which was developed for the Multigen experiment, was installed in standard Experiment Containers (EC) of the EMCS and referred to as the Resist Wall Flower Pot. The Resist Wall Flower Pot is a chamber where plant seeds grow to mature plants and produce legumes with new seeds. Resist Wall is a cooperative investigation between the European Space Agency (ESA), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
An alpha-tubulin (principal protein component of tiny fibers that are basic to DNA structure) gene of Arabidopsis (tua6), which is a structural constituent of cytoskeleton, is responsible for encoding an alpha-tubulin isoform (a form of a protein with slightly different amino-acid sequences) required for right handed helical growth. Under microgravity conditions, seeds of the tua6 mutant were shown to germinate and grow normally until they reached the seedling stage.
Once the experiment was complete, the samples were returned to Earth and analyzed for changes in expression of genes involved in the formation of microtubules, plasma membrane, cell walls, and levels of related cellular components.
The Resist Wall experiment aimed to explore the molecular mechanism by which the cell-wall construction of supporting tissues in land plants is regulated via gravity signal, which can benefit space explorers.Earth Applications
Data gathered from the Resist Wall study will further the understanding of how plant growth and development at a molecular level can lead to significant advancements in agricultural production on Earth.
Resist Wall was designed to operate using pre-existing Experimental Unique Equipment (EUE) from the Multigen experiment, referred to as the Resist Wall Flower Pot. Eight Resist Wall Flower Pots required installation into EMCS; 4 on rotor A which rotated at 1G and 4 on rotor B, which did not rotate. The Resist Wall flower pots required watering and automated image acquisition daily, which was provided by the EMCS. The crewmembers were required to provide on-orbit support by checking the EMCS daily for nominal operations. Cultivation of these plants lasted approximately 33 to 53 days at 23 degrees Celsius requiring 16 hours of light and 8 hours of dark daily. The EMCS contained 60 percent humidity with 0.03 percent carbon dioxide. After the plants reached a length of approximately 10 cm, the Resist Wall Flower Pots were removed from the EMCS and placed inside the Microgravity Sciences Glovebox (MSG), to prepare the plant material for harvesting. Crewmembers were required to divide, preserve and store the samples per a cue card provided by the Resist Wall investigators.Operational Protocols
The crew provided on-orbit support by checking the EMCS daily for nominal operations. Crewmembers divided, fixed and stored the samples using the Kennedy Space Center Fixation Tube (KFT); a system designed to contain plant or other small biological samples during flight and to chemically fix and stain tissue samples.
The KFTs provided three levels of containment for the chemical fixative during stowage and operations. After cultivation, all plant stems were harvested and inserted into KFTs and Ziploc bags. Samples were stored in KFTs containing either RNAlaterTM (aqueous, non-toxic tissue and cell collection reagent that stabilizes and protects cellular RNA in intact) and stowed at -35 degrees Celsius; or KFTs containing formaldehyde and stowed at +2 degrees Celsius. The remaining stems were stored in Ziploc bags and placed inside the Minus Eighty Laboratory Freezer for ISS (MELFI) at -95 degrees Celsius. Once the experiment was completed, the samples were returned to Earth for analysis.
During the final steps in gravity resistance, plants increase their cell wall rigidity by modifying their cell wall metabolism and cell wall environment. Under hypergravity conditions, the orientation of cortical microtubules is modified, suggesting that they play an important role in gravity resistance. The Resist Wall Experiment aims to clarify whether the gravity resistance of plants in 1 G gravity, specifically the function of microtubules, is the same as the resistance in hypergravity. In 2008, this experiment was carried out on the Plant Cultivation Chamber (PCC) in the European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS) on the International Space Station (ISS).
Seeds from two Arabidopsis strains, wild-type Columbia and ?-tubulin 6 mutant (tua6), were prepared and installed in the EMCS. Seeds were watered, and germinated plants were grown while daily images were acquired with an automated acquisition system on EMCS. Naturally air dried plants were recovered to Earth and were gradually rehydrated for 7 days. The intention was to grow all seeds to the reproductive stage and compare their growth and development; however, due to failure in the water supply system, only one of the four PCCs received a limited supply of water, and no plants reached the expected developmental stage. Under microgravity conditions, seeds of both the wild-type and the tua6 mutant were shown to germinate and grow normally until they reached the seedling stage. The cell wall mechanical properties of rehydrated hypocotyls exhibited typical stress-strains and stress-relaxation curves, which are normally seen in fixed or frozen materials. There were no prominent differences between space-grown hypocotyls and the ground controls.
The mechanism of gravity resistance has often been confused with that of gravitropism. Future experiments will take place to further define this mechanism under microgravity conditions. Results from this investigation will help scientists to support the growth of plants on long-duration space exploration missions, as well as improve agricultural methods on Earth (Hoson 2009).
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