Biological Research in Canisters-20 (BRIC-20) - 12.19.18

Overview | Description | Applications | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
Plants use a variety of protein signals to react to environmental cues such as moisture, gravity and temperature. The Biological Research in Canisters-20 (BRIC-20) investigation germinates seeds in space and preserves them for research on proteomics, or the study of proteins, back on Earth. Results from this investigation can help scientists understand how plants cope with microgravity, which benefits efforts to use plants for food and oxygen on future space missions.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by David Flowers, and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details

OpNom: BRIC-20

Principal Investigator(s)
Sarah Wyatt, Ph.D., Ohio University, Athens, OH, United States

Darron Luesse, Ph.D., Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, IL, United States

NASA Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, FL, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD)

Research Benefits
Space Exploration, Earth Benefits, Scientific Discovery

ISS Expedition Duration
September 2014 - March 2015

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
BRIC Series hardware has previously flown on STS-87, STS-107, STS-131, STS-135, SpaceX-2, SpaceX-3, and SpaceX-4.

^ back to top

Experiment Description

Research Overview

The goals of the BRIC-20 investigation are to:
  • Study how plants adjust and cope with the microgravity environment.
  • Determine what proteins (i.e. enzymes) are present in plant cells grown in microgravity, and how they compare to plant cells grown in ground controls. These proteins are responsible for all biological reactions, including those necessary for growth, for responses to stress, and for using food to generate biological energy.


The overall goal of the BRIC-20 Investigation is to better understand how plants adjust and cope with the microgravity environment. In all organisms, DNA encodes the instructions for life. Although all cells contain the same DNA in response to developmental and environmental changes, RNA makes copies of the subset of genes (DNA) needed for the specific response, and serves as a template to make proteins. Proteins (i.e. enzymes) are the physiologically active molecules. They are responsible for all biological reactions, including those necessary for growth, for responses to stress, and for using food to generate biological energy. In light of this, this investigation seeks to determine what proteins are present in plant cells growing in microgravity, and how their protein content differs from plants grown in ground controls.
To execute this, several hundred seeds from the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana are placed on nutrient agar in small petri dishes loaded in the BRIC. Transfer from refrigerated conditions to room temperature induces germination of the seedlings. After three days of growth, a chemical preservative (RNAlater) is injected into the plates by a crew member using an actuator tool to stop the cellular processes. After return to earth, proteins and RNA are extracted from the samples. Utilizing a process called proteomics, information on which proteins are present in the sample, the quantity of each protein, and modifications to those proteins is obtained.

^ back to top


Space Applications

Future long-duration space missions will rely on plants for food supplies, oxygen and a pleasant reminder of Earth. Understanding how plants germinate and grow in space helps scientists design better space habitats for plants, and could lead to genetic modifications that make plants more space-tolerant. The BRIC-Petri Dish Fixation Unit (PDFU) is used to germinate and grow Arabidopsis thaliana seedlings, as well as deliver a chemical that stops growth and preserves the seedlings so they can be compared with plants grown on Earth.

Earth Applications
Plants evolved to use gravity throughout their life cycles, from determining how to grow up from the ground, to where to position their flowers and seeds. This investigation aims to identify the individual proteins plants use to sense and respond to gravity. Understanding the protein-related underpinnings of this basic plant behavior has important implications for agricultural and biomass production, benefiting people on Earth.

^ back to top


Operational Requirements and Protocols

BRIC-20 is a sortie flight. Samples are returned on the same flight, and have the following operational requirements:
  • Late stow at L-24 hours in a double cold bag.
  • Actuation performed by the crew at 3 days after cold bag unpack
  • Samples to be frozen in the Minus Eighty-degree Laboratory Freezer for ISS (MELFI)

The BRIC-20 payload is stowed in a double cold bag for ascent to the International Space Station on the SpaceX Dragon Spacecraft. At 3 days after cold bag unpacking, the payload hardware is accessed for activation. A rod is removed from the Rod Kit and inserted into the BRIC-PDFU Actuator Tool. The BRIC-PDFU Actuator Tool is attached to the selected BRIC-PDFU canister lid in position 1 and is used to mechanically force RNAlater fixative into the Petri dishes. The process is repeated until all the PDFUs are activated in all four canisters. After a 12 hour stabilization period, the canisters are transferred to the MELFI for freezing of the samples at -80°C or less.

^ back to top

Decadal Survey Recommendations

Plant and Microbial Biology P2

^ back to top

Results/More Information

Information Pending

^ back to top

Related Websites
Sarah Wyatt, Ohio University

^ back to top


Typical BRIC Canister.

+ View Larger Image

BRIC Actuator Tool and Rod.

+ View Larger Image