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Keywords:

  • Arabidopsis thaliana;
  • European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS);
  • International Space Station (ISS);
  • microgravity;
  • phototropism;
  • phytochrome;
  • red light;
  • space biology

Summary

  • The aim of this study was to investigate phototropism in plants grown in microgravity conditions without the complications of a 1-g environment. Experiments performed on the International Space Station (ISS) were used to explore the mechanisms of both blue-light- and red-light-induced phototropism in plants.
  • This project utilized the European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS), which has environmental controls for plant growth as well as centrifuges for gravity treatments used as a 1-g control. Images captured from video tapes were used to analyze the growth, development, and curvature of Arabidopsis thaliana plants that developed from seed in space.
  • A novel positive phototropic response to red light was observed in hypocotyls of seedlings that developed in microgravity. This response was not apparent in seedlings grown on Earth or in the 1-g control during the space flight. In addition, blue-light-based phototropism had a greater response in microgravity compared with the 1-g control.
  • Although flowering plants are generally thought to lack red light phototropism, our data suggest that at least some flowering plants may have retained a red light sensory system for phototropism. Thus, this discovery may have important implications for understanding the evolution of light sensory systems in plants.