Mechanisms for plant adaptation to space environment (BRIC-18-2) - 11.22.16
The Mechanisms for plant adaptation to space environment (BRIC 18-2) investigation uses a self-contained unit to study spaceflight-related stress in plants. The investigation studies the regulatory role of a specific protein in the model plant thale cress, Arabidopsis thaliana, to improve understanding of how plants adapt to stress. The protein AtIRE1 is involved in regulating gene expression in stressful conditions. Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending Experiment Details
Federica Brandizzi, Michigan State University - Plant Research Laboratory, East Lansing, MI, United States
NASA Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, FL, United States
Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD)
ISS Expedition Duration
March 2014 - September 2014
- Successful plant growth in closed-loop life support conditions is a difficult challenge for the realization of long-term habitation of spacecraft and other extraterrestrial environments.
- In these environments plants can undergo stress induced by a number of factors including changes in gravity, radiation, vibration, limited exchange of gases, and suboptimal growth conditions.
- To facilitate plant life in space, it is crucial to acquire a better understanding of the genetic changes in plants that enable adaptation to the spaceflight environment at a transcriptional level.
Successful plant growth in closed-loop life support conditions is a difficult challenge for the realization of long-term habitation of spacecraft and other extraterrestrial environments. In such environments, plants can undergo stress induced by a number of factors including changes in gravity, radiations, vibration, limited exchange of gases, and suboptimal growth conditions (temperature, light, nutrients). These sources of stress are often associated with reprogramming of gene expression and can cause limited plant growth, development and yield.
To facilitate plant life in space, it is crucial to acquire a better understanding of the genetic changes that enable plant cells to respond to spaceflight stress. To do so, one goal of this proposal is to define the underlying mechanisms of plant adaptation to spaceflight environment at a transcriptional level. A protein named AtIRE1 has been successfully identified as a master regulator of transcription in conditions of stress responses to abiotic, biotic stress, and gravity changes in plants. A better understanding of the signaling pathways controlled by AtIRE1 are not well defined, especially in conditions of altered gravity. Additional research on the signaling pathways controlled by AtIRE1 is important to gain a better understanding on how plants can grow in conditions of stress.
In-flight and ground resources are used, along with genomics and transcriptomics analyses in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana to understand the regulartory role of AtIRE1 in adaptation to space flight stress. Further development of this research contributes to the understanding of basic signaling pathways that are in place to ensure stress survival in hostile environments, thus making possible the design and growth of plants that are resistant to space stress. To contribute further to the successful realization of habitation in space, the aim is to develop plants that can function as bioindicators of stress during in-flight situations. To do so, plants are engineered with an AtIRE1 substrate that is activated specifically in conditions of stress and are adapted to function as a visual stress reporter. The availability of real-time stress bioindicators provides scientists and astronauts with direct read-outs of stress in the space environment.
The results gathered in our research contributes to NASA’s strategic plans for the realization of long-term habitation of space and planetary surfaces. Because of the conservation of stress sensing and response mechanisms across multicellular organisms, the results are expected to have important implications for the general knowledge of stress and the design of solutions for space stress management in multicellular organisms, including humans.
Results from the BRIC investigations shed light on plants' molecular responses to the stress of microgravity, which can affect their growth. This provides important insight for future long-term space missions or eventual colonies on the moon or Mars. In addition, the BRIC-PDFU hardware can grow seedlings and deliver chemicals without the need for a separate crew access container, reducing size, weight and crew member time.
Conditions such as drought, too much or too little sunlight, insect attacks, and several other phenomena can cause stress to plants. Plants react to this stress in various ways, but the molecular underpinnings of these reactions are similar throughout the plant and animal kingdoms. Understanding the role of proteins in stress-related gene expression improves general knowledge of stress responses across many organisms. Ultimately, better understanding of stress can lead to better stress management in any multi-celled organism, from plants to people.
Operational Requirements and Protocols
Sterilized seeds are plated and installed into the BRIC canisters.The seeds will be fixed at two intervals, 7 and 14 days after docking. The first canister is fixated at 7 days and the second canister is fixated at 14 days. After fixation, the BRIC canisters are refrigerated at +4°C until post-landing turnover to the PI. Refrigerated samples are planned for return on the same SpaceX mission as launched.
Seven days after docking, the BRIC-18-2 payload hardware is accessed for fixation. 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 RNA Later fluid into the Petri dish. The process is repeated until all the PDFUs are activated in the first canister. At 14 days after docking, a second fixation period occurs for the remaining experiment in the PDFUs of the second BRIC canister by performing the same Actuator Tool operation. Twenty-four hours after fixation, the BRIC canister must be transferred to the refrigeration of the samples at +4°C or less.
Decadal Survey Recommendations
Plant and Microbial Biology P2
Plant and Microbial Biology P3
Information Pending^ back to top
Ground Based Results Publications
Brandizzi F, Barlowe C. Organization of the ER-Golgi interface for membrane traffic control. Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology. 2013 June; 14(6): 382-392. DOI: 10.1038/nrm3588. PMID: 23698585.
Chen Y, Aung K, Rolčík J, Walicki K, Friml J, Brandizzi F. Inter-regulation of the unfolded protein response and auxin signaling. Plant Journal. 2014 January; 77(1): 97-107. DOI: 10.1111/tpj.12373. PMID: 24180465.
Chen Y, Brandizzi F. Analysis of unfolded protein response in Arabidopsis. Methods in Molecular Biology. 2013; 1043: 73-80. DOI: 10.1007/978-1-62703-532-3_8. PMID: 23913037.
+ View Larger Image
BRIC Actuator Tool and Rod.
+ View Larger Image
Actuation of BRIC Canister.
+ View Larger Image