Microgravity Science and Technology

, Volume 30, Issue 4, pp 491–502 | Cite as

The Impact of Simulated Microgravity on the Growth of Different Genotypes of the Model Legume Plant Medicago truncatula

  • Gemma Lionheart
  • Joshua P. Vandenbrink
  • Jason D. Hoeksema
  • John Z. KissEmail author
Original Article


Simulated microgravity has been a useful tool to help understand plant development in altered gravity conditions. Thirty-one genotypes of the legume plant Medicago truncatula were grown in either simulated microgravity on a rotating clinostat, or in a static, vertical environment. Twenty morphological features were measured and compared between these two gravity treatments. Within-species genotypic variation was a significant predictor of the phenotypic response to gravity treatment in 100% of the measured morphological and growth features. In addition, there was a genotype–environment interaction (G × E) for 45% of the response variables, including shoot relative growth rate (p < 0.0005), median number of roots (p ∼ 0.02), and root dry mass (p < 0.005). Our studies demonstrate that genotype does play a significant role in M. truncatula morphology and affects the response of plants to the gravity treatment, influencing both the magnitude and direction of the gravity response. These findings are discussed in the context of improving future studies in plant space biology by controlling for genotypic differences. Thus, manipulation of genotype effects, in combination with M. truncatula’s symbiotic relationships with bacteria and fungi, will be important for optimizing legumes for cultivation on long-term space missions.


Clinorotation Gravitropism Legumes Medicago truncatula Simulated microgravity Space biology 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of MississippiOxfordUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyUniversity of North Carolina-GreensboroGreensboroUSA

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