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NanoRacks-University of Florida-Squids-1 (NanoRacks-UF-Squids-1)


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

Experiment Overview

This content was provided by Jamie S. Foster, Ph.D., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.

Brief Summary

NanoRacks-University of Florida-Squids-1 (NanoRacks-UF-Squids-1) examines the effect of the space environment on the normal developmental time line of the cooperative relationship between the Hawaiian Bobtail Squid Euprymna scolopes and the luminescent bacterium Vibrio fischeri. The goal of this project is to determine whether beneficial microbes that typically associate with animal tissues are negatively impacted by microgravity.

Principal Investigator(s)

  • Jamie S. Foster, Ph.D., University of Florida, FL, United States
  • Co-Investigator(s)/Collaborator(s)

    Information Pending

    Information Pending

    Sponsoring Space Agency

    National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

    Sponsoring Organization

    National Laboratory (NL)

    ISS Expedition Duration

    March 2011 - September 2011

    Expeditions Assigned


    Previous ISS Missions

    Information Pending

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    Experiment Description

    Research Overview

    • NanoRacks-University of Florida-Squids-1 (NanoRacks-UF-Squids-1) aspires to monitor the normal developmental timeline of symbiosis and examine the host immune response under microgravity conditions.

    • During the experiments host squid are inoculated with symbiosis-competent bacteria in the space environment and allowed to undergo development for approximately 24 hours. After incubation the animals are then preserved to monitor the various stages of development at an ultrastructural level.

    • The understanding of how gravity plays a role in microbe-induced animal development may improve by examining the impact that microgravity has on host-microbe interactions. Secondly, NanoRacks-UF-Squids-1 assess the negative effects of microgravity on beneficial microbes and whether this might impact human health.


    Microbes play a significant role in the normal development of animal tissues. NanoRacks-University of Florida-Squids-1 (NanoRacks-UF-Squids-1) examines the effects of microgravity on the normal developmental interactions between an animal host and a bacterial symbiont (the smaller member of the cooperative relationship). The model system between the squid Euprymna scolopes and the luminescent (light emitting) bacterium Vibrio fischeri is used to examine the effects of the space environment on animal-microbe symbioses. NanoRacks-UF-Squids-1 is supported by an instrument grant from Promega Corporation and a research grant from the Florida Space Grant Consortium.

    A two-pronged approach is used to examine the impact of microgravity on this symbiosis. First the symbiosis is examined under simulate microgravity using rotating bioreactors called high-aspect-ratio rotating wall vessel bioreactors (HARVs). The HARVs provide a low-shear environment for both the host and symbiont, thereby simulating the space environment. Second, a small pilot experiment is flown on the STS-134 shuttle mission to examine the symbiosis under natural microgravity conditions.

    When squid hatch from their eggs they are born without bacteria (aposymbiotic) and must acquire those bacteria from the surrounding seawater. To acquire those bacteria the squid uses specialized ciliated cells on the surface of the light organ. However, only a specific strain of the bacterium, Vibrio fischeri, is capable of colonizing the squid light organ. Once the bacteria move inside the light organ the squid is considered symbiotic and the V. fischeri induces a developmental remodeling of the host light organ. The ciliated cells used to initiate the symbiosis die through apoptosis (cell death) and begin to regress. This developmental restructuring of the light organ is essential for the normal development of the host squid.

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    Space Applications

    The research complements those studies underway in pathogenic organisms (Wilson et al., 2007), as several gene pathways (e.g., hfq) are common to both mutualistic and pathogenic organisms. By understanding what commensal/mutualistic bacteria are experiencing in microgravity, we can deepen our understanding of human health in the space environment.

    Earth Applications

    For the approximately 3.8 billion years that life has existed on Earth gravity has been one of the few constants throughout the evolution process. By experimenting in microgravity conditions we can potentially assess the impact gravity has had on life’s evolution as well as delineate developmental triggers or cues that may otherwise be obscured by gravity. This may expand our basic understanding of how gravity has influenced the evolution of life on Earth.

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    Operational Requirements

    Oneconstraint of this experiment is having enough replicate animals to complete a robust scientific experiment. Another constraint is the need for crewmember participation and so replicate experiments might not always follow the same time line. Full automation may eventually be required.

    Operational Protocols

    Approximately 14 hours post launch a crewmember activates the experiment by pushing to the first plunger stop to add symbiotic bacteria to host squid.

    Experiment is allowed to incubate for 28 hours and then the crewmember terminates the experiment by pushing the plunger to the last stop, thus preserving the animal in preservative.

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    Results/More Information

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    Related Websites
  • NanoRacks LLC
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    image Hatchling squid loaded into the liquid mixing apparatus and ready for flight. Image courtesy of University of Florida.
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    image Juvenile squid after returning from space. Image courtesy of University of Florida.
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    image High school student Mirina Parrish preparing animals for loading into the liquid mixing apparatus. Image courtesy of University of Florida.
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    image Squid loaded into flight hardware waiting for packing into trays. Image courtesy of University of Florida.
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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.