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Biological Research In Canisters-17-1: Undifferentiated Cell development in Arabidopsis plants in Microgravity (BRIC-17-1)


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

Experiment Overview

This content was provided by Anna-Lisa Paul, Ph.D., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.

Brief Summary

The Biological Research in Canisters (BRIC) hardware supports a variety of plant growth investigations. The Biological Research In Canisters-17-1: Undifferentiated Cell development in Arabidopsis plants in Microgravity (BRIC-17-1) investigation focuses on the growth and development of cell cultures in microgravity. Specimens are preserved with a chemical fixative and returned to the ground for post-flight evaluation.

Principal Investigator(s)

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

  • Robert J. Ferl, 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)

    ISS Expedition Duration

    September 2012 - March 2013

    Expeditions Assigned


    Previous ISS Missions

    BRIC Series hardware has previously flown on STS-87, STS-107, STS-131, STS-135.

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    Experiment Description

    Research Overview

    • Biological Research In Canisters-17-1: Undifferentiated Cell development in Arabidopsis plants in Microgravity (BRIC-17-1) provides a better understanding of how environmental signals are perceived and interpreted by plant cells and determines which genes play a role in signaling events during space flight responses.

    • BRIC-17-1 investigates how plant cells respond to the space flight environment at a molecular level.

    • This investigation advances the fundamental understanding of how plants perceive and process novel signals from the space flight environment.


    The overall goal of the Biological Research in Canisters (BRIC) project is to understand fundamental molecular biological responses to extraterrestrial environments. This goal aligns with Fundamental Space Biology goals to understand the impact of space flight on biological systems. Within that context, the goal of this proposal is to explore the mechanism by which undifferentiated cells, cells presumably lacking the specializations typical of gravity response mechanisms, perceive the space flight environment. Undifferentiated callus cells from Arabidopsis were used to reveal unique gene expression patterns in response to true space flight as part of the BRIC-16 experiment in 2010. This was followed by examination of the response of these cells to a variety of terrestrial environments and stimuli, including space flight analogs such as slowly rotating the plant on a fixed surface, so as to approximate a microgravity environment (clinorotation), hyper-g centrifugation (centrifugation between 2 and 10g for different periods of time), and parabolic flight. The present proposal moves beyond phenomenon observation to address specific hypotheses derived from these initial space flight and ground experiments. In the previous BRIC-16 experiment, biologically replicated DNA microarray and RNA digital transcript profiling revealed several hundred genes in seedlings and cell cultures that were significantly affected by launch and space flight. While the response in intact Arabidopsis seedlings was significant but moderate in intensity, the response of undifferentiated cell cultures was dramatic, intense, and in completely different gene sets than in the intact seedlings. The finding that undifferentiated plant cells uniquely perceive gravity raises powerful questions of gravity perception and response, and sets the stage for hypothesis-driven experimentation directed toward understanding this phenomenon.

    The hypothesis for Biological Research In Canisters-17-1: Undifferentiated Cell development in Arabidopsis plants in Microgravity is that the response of cell cultures is not driven by the same gravity response mechanisms known in intact plants. Culture lines derived from gravity signaling mutants are used to test this hypothesis. This investigates the underlying mechanisms by which undifferentiated cells detect and respond to the space flight environment in the absence of specialized tissue or organized developmental structures known to detect gravity. The data generated is in the form of gene expression patterns that can be directly compared to previous flight and ground data. These experiments are carefully scaled to the BRIC operational context and enable further investigation into mechanisms associated with plant responses to the space flight environment. Gaining insights into such mechanisms is recognized as fundamental, and help underpin answers to some of the biggest questions in space flight plant biology.

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    Space Applications

    The BRIC-PDFU hardware provides the capability to grow seedlings and cell cultures, deliver water and RNAlater in one piece of hardware without the need for a glovebox. This approach minimizes resources such as volume, mass and crew time.

    Earth Applications

    As with all basic research, an improved understanding of basic growth phenomena has important implications for improving growth and biomass production on Earth and thus will benefit the average citizen.

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    Operational Requirements

    The samples have a fixation window of 8-12 days after launch, with an optimum fixation at 12 days. After fixation, the two BRIC canisters must be transferred to the MELFI for freezing of the samples at-20 degrees C or less. The samples are good for months if kept at -20 degrees C. Frozen samples are planned for return on the same SpaceX mission as launched. No downlink of data is required.

    Operational Protocols

    At an experiment-specific time point, the BRIC-17-1 payload hardware is accessed for actuation per operational requirements specified above. 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 first position and is used to mechanically force RNAlater into the Petri dish volume. Twenty-four hours after fixation the BRIC canisters must be transferred to the MELFI for freezing of the samples at-20 degrees C or less.

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    Results/More Information

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    Related Websites
  • University of Florida - Dr. Anna-Lisa Paul
  • Ferl Lab
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    Information provided by the investigation team to the ISS Program Scientist's Office.
    If updates are needed to the summary please contact JSC-ISS-Program-Science-Group. For other general questions regarding space station research and technology, please feel free to call our help line at 281-244-6187 or e-mail at JSC-ISS-Payloads-Helpline.