Khaled Kamal, from Zagazig University, Egypt, and his research team discovered a host of cellular changes after subjecting Arabidopsis thaliana cultures to simulated conditions of microgravity, Mars-like gravity (0.37G), or hypergravity (2G).
They observed the starkest changes under reduced-gravity conditions, where cells accumulated in the DNA-replication phase and, under microgravity, exhibited the most prominent shift towards less functional nucleoli. The researchers also found that modulated gravity levels also impacted the production of ribosomes and altered regulators of cell cycle control and gene expression. Similar, less defined effects were seen in 2G conditions.
Understanding the cellular and molecular response of plants to different levels of gravity benefits our understanding of plant physiology, but also informs efforts for long-duration spaceflights or colonization missions—where they will likely play a similarly essential role as they do to preserve life on Earth.
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Poster image: Astronaut Norishige Kanai holds dwarf wheat grown in the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Kibo laboratory module aboard the ISS. Image courtesy of NASA.