Molecular and Plant Physiological Analyses of the Microgravity Effects on Multigeneration Studies of Arabidopsis thaliana (Multigen) - 11.22.16
Molecular and Plant Physiological Analyses of the Microgravity Effects on Multigeneration Studies of Arabidopsis thaliana (Multigen) will grow Arabidopsis thaliana, a small flowering plant related to cabbage and mustard, in orbit for three generations. The results of this investigation will support future plans to grow plants on the long-duration transit to Mars. This is a cooperative investigation with the European Space Agency, ESA. Science Results for Everyone
Roots, shoots, and leaves. This investigation tested and compared the use of polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) membranes of varying thicknesses in various types of plant seed experiments. Researchers examined rotational growth movements of Arabidopsis thaliana in microgravity and observed that response to 1g of applied force was greater in plants grown in microgravity. Leaves bent down when exposed to light and upwards when exposed to darkness; side stems had small rotational growth movements in microgravity, pronounced movement in 0.8g force, and no movement once the centrifuge stopped. Main stems demonstrated small movements in microgravity and amplified movements under applied acceleration. This experiment also developed a method to create 3D images from 2D ones. Experiment Details
Tor-Henning Iversen, Ph.D., Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
Anders Johnsson, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
F. Migliaccio, Italy
Ann-Iren Kittang, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
Bjarte Gees Bokn Solheim, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
Poli Design, Milano, Italy
European Space Agency (ESA), Noordwijk, Netherlands
Sponsoring Space Agency
European Space Agency (ESA)
ISS Expedition Duration
April 2007 - April 2008
While Multigen is a new experiment, other studies of plant growth and development have been conducted on the ISS. The Advanced Astroculture (ADVASC) payload was operated during ISS Increments 2, 4, and 5. This experiment studied the ability to grow mature seed bearing plants in microgravity.
- To achieve successful long duration space exploration a renewable food source for the astronauts must be available.
- This experiment will examine the possibility of sustainable plant growth for long-duration space exploration by growing several generations of the plants in orbit.
- A model plant, Arabidopsis thaliana (thale cress) will be used to study seed production and viability in microgravity.
Multigen tested a novel method of immobilization of biological samples (e.g. plant seeds). A similar immobilization system was tested on ground with positive results at the Plant BioCentre, NTNU, Trondheim, Norway. The Multigen experiment proposed to observe how this system will work in microgravity conditions.
The experiment used a water soluble polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) membrane to fix plant seeds to a surface, taking care that the fixation method does not impact the science (e.g. growth pattern and biocompatibility) and that it is compatible with the experimental setup (auto-immunization and hardware in general). The experiment protocols include observation of the behavior of the membrane as it is dissolved, looking for any movement of the seeds. Multigen tested and compared PVA membranes of varying thicknesses, and also tested the set-up with different types of seeds, although the main work is done on Arabidopsis thaliana.
Operational Requirements and Protocols
The seeds are launched in a dry state inside the plant cultivation chamber at 22 degrees C. The plant cultivation chamber is placed inside the EMCS by the crew. The crew will activate Multigen, by pressing a button on the EMCS to water the seeds to begin germination. The growth process is closely followed using the EMCS provided time-lapsed video system. When the plant is fully grown and has developed seeds, the crew will press a button on the EMCS to start the dehydration process. The plant cultivation chambers are removed from EMCS and stowed for return to Earth. Once on Earth, a portion of the seeds from the dehydrated plants will be used in ground based morphological studies. The remaining seeds are harvested and returned to ISS in plant cultivation chambers for Mulitgen-2.
Multigen-2 will duplicate the operations of Multigen-1 to create seeds for DNA analysis and Multigen-3. The process will be completed with the plants developed in Multigen-3. The dehydrated plants from Multigen-3 will be harvested and studied to link circumnutational behavior.
The materials and systems of the experiment closely replicate the conditions of plant experiments onboard the International Space Station (ISS) in the Multigen. A semiautomatic system will be used to introduce water into small containers in order to dissolve the immobilization materials. We will do one experiment per parabola. We will vary the thickness of the PVA membrane and the type of seeds. Some repetitions of experiments are necessary to obtain reliable results. The result of each experiment will be recorded using a high definition camera in combination with a 40x microscope. The results will highlight any difference between the behavior of the PVA membranes in 1G and in a 0G environment.
Decadal Survey Recommendations
Information Pending^ back to top
Multigen samples were returned to Earth for analysis by the investigator team in April 2008. Final results of the investigation are pending data analysis of the returned samples. (Evans et al. 2009)^ back to top
Fisahn J, Klingele E, Barlow PW. Lunar gravity affects leaf movement of Arabidopsis thaliana in the International Space Station. Planta. 2015; epub. DOI: 10.1007/s00425-015-2280-x. PMID: 25795423.
Solheim BB. 3D information from 2D images recorded in the European Modular Cultivation System on the ISS. Advances in Space Research. 2009 Dec 15; 44(12): 1382-1391. DOI: 10.1016/j.asr.2009.07.008.
Solheim BB, Johnsson A, Iversen T. Ultradian Rhythms in Arabidopsis Thaliana Leaves in Microgravity. New Phytologist. 2009; 183: 1043-1052. DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-8137.2009.02896.x.
Johnsson A, Solheim BB, Iversen T. Gravity Amplifies and Microgravity Decreases Circumnutations in Arabidopsis Thaliana Stems: Results from a Space Experiment. New Phytologist. 2009; 182: 621-629. DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-8137.2009.02777.x.
Ground Based Results Publications
Kittang A, Kvaloy B, Winge P, Iversen T. Ground testing of Arabidopsis preservation protocol for the microarray analysis to be used in the ISS EMCS Multigen-2 experiment. Advances in Space Research. 2010; 46: 1249-1256. DOI: 10.1016/j.asr.2010.06.021.
Fossum KR, Kittang A, Iversen T, Brinckmann E, Schiller P. Testing the European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS) for ISS plant and cell research. SAE Technical Paper. 2005; 2005-01-2841. DOI: 4271/2005-01-2841.
Solheim BB, Kittang A, Iversen T, Johnsson A. Preparatory experiments for long-term observation of Arabidopsis circumnutations in microgravity. Acta Astronautica. 2006; 59: 46-53. DOI: 10.1016/j.actaastro.2006.02.044.
Solheim BB, Kittang A, Iversen T, Johnsson A. Preparatory experiments for long term observation of Arabidopsis circumnutations in microgravity. 56th International Astronautical Congress, Fukuoka, Japan; 2005 A1.6.06.
Barlow PW. Leaf movements and their relationship with the lunisolar gravitational force. Annals of Botany. 2015 August; 116(2): 149-187. DOI: 10.1093/aob/mcv096. PMID: 26205177.
Skagen EB, Iversen T. Effect of simulated and real weightlessness on early regeneration stages of Brassica napus protoplasts. In Vitro Cellular and Developmental Biology - Animal. 2000; 36(5): 312-318.
Helleseng KO, Gronnevik A, Fossum KR, Kittang A, Iversen T. Utliization of the European Modular Cultivation System - opportunities and support functions.. 56th International Astronautical Congress. Fukuoka, Japan; 2005
Columbus Mission - European Experiment Programme
The Arabidopsis Information Resource
Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Image of the experiment container used to house Arabidopsis thaliana seeds in EMCS. Image Courtesy of ESA.
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Image Arabidopsis thaliana plant in the wild. Image Courtesy of ESA.
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Housed in the European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS), Multigen grows Arabidopsis thaliana to determine the affects of microgravity on plants. This image was taken a few days after germination of the seeds during Expedition 15. Multigen is a cooperative investigation with the European Space Agency, ESA. Image provided by ESA.
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Housed in the European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS), Multigen grows Arabidopsis thaliana to determine the affects of microgravity on plants. This image was captured on GMT 299 and shows the flower stalk (stem) with 2-3 flower bulbs on top and a few stem leaves below. Image provided by ESA.
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Housed in the European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS), Multigen grows Arabidopsis thaliana to determine the affects of microgravity on plants. This image was captured on GMT 300 and shows the flower stalk (stem) with 2-3 flower bulbs on top and a few stem leaves below. Image provided by ESA.
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Housed in the European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS), Multigen grows Arabidopsis thaliana to determine the affects of microgravity on plants. This image was captured on GMT 301 and shows the flower stalk (stem) with 2-3 flower bulbs on top and a few stem leaves below. Image provided by ESA.
+ View Larger Image