Phototropism pp 207-214 | Cite as

Preparation of a Spaceflight Experiment to Study Tropisms in Arabidopsis Seedlings on the International Space Station

  • Joshua P. Vandenbrink
  • John Z. KissEmail author
Part of the Methods in Molecular Biology book series (MIMB, volume 1924)


Utilization of orbiting spacecraft allows for studying biological processes in conditions of microgravity. Centrifuges on board these platforms also allow for the creation of partial gravity vectors (to simulate the Moon or Mars levels of gravity) as well as onboard 1-g controls for the space experiments. Thus, the mechanisms of gravity and light perception in plants can be analyzed in a unique environment which can give insights into fundamental processes in biology. Here, we describe the methods for preparation of a plant biology experiment with seedlings of Arabidopsis thaliana utilizing the European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS) on the International Space Station (ISS). The procedures outlined in this paper have been successfully used in several of our recent spaceflight experiments, which have given unique insights into the basic mechanisms of tropisms.

Key words

Arabidopsis thaliana European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS) Gravitropism Phototropism Plant space biology Spaceflight experiment Tropisms 


  1. 1.
    Kiss JZ (2014) Plant biology in reduced gravity on the Moon and Mars. Plant Biol (Stuttg) 16:12–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Vandenbrink JP, Kiss JZ, Herranz R, Medina FJ (2014) Light and gravity signals synergize in modulating plant development. Front Plant Sci 5:563CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Herranz R, Valbuena MA, Youssef K, Medina F-J (2014) Mechanisms of disruption of meristematic competence by microgravity in Arabidopsis seedlings. Plant Signal Behav 9:124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Vandenbrink JP, Herranz R, Medina FJ, Edelmann RE, Kiss JZ (2016) A novel blue-light phototropic response is revealed in roots of Arabidopsis thaliana in microgravity. Planta 244:1201–1215CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Wolverton C, Kiss JZ (2011) An update on plant space biology. Gravit Space Res 22:13–22Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Buizer K (2007) GraPhoBox: gravitropism and phototropism in Arabidopsis thaliana. Microgravity Sci Technol 19:239–243CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Ivanova T, Bercovich YA, Mashinskiy A, Meleshko G (1993) The first “space” vegetables have been grown in the “SVET” greenhouse using controlled environmental conditions. Acta Astronaut 29:639–644CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Heathcote D, Brown A, Chapman D (1995) The phototropic response of Triticum aestivum coleoptiles under conditions of low gravity. Plant Cell Environ 18:53–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Kraft TF, van Loon JJ, Kiss JZ (2000) Plastid position in Arabidopsis columella cells is similar in microgravity and on a random-positioning machine. Planta 211:415–422CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Ferl RJ, Koh J, Denison F, Paul AL (2015) Spaceflight induces specific alterations in the proteomes of Arabidopsis. Astrobiology 15:32–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Kiss JZ, Millar KDL, Edelmann RE (2012) Phototropism of Arabidopsis thaliana in microgravity and fractional gravity on the International Space Station. Planta 236:635–645CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Kiss JZ (2015) Conducting plant experiments in space. Methods Mol Biol 1309:255–283CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Blancaflor EB (2002) The cytoskeleton and gravitropism in higher plants. J Plant Growth Regul 21:120–136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Millar KD, Johnson CM, Edelmann RE, Kiss JZ (2011) An endogenous growth pattern of roots is revealed in seedlings grown in microgravity. Astrobiology 11:787–797CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Correll MJ, Kiss JZ (2005) The roles of phytochromes in elongation and gravitropism of roots. Plant Cell Physiol 46:317–323CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Correll MJ, Pyle TP, Millar KDL, Sun Y, Yao J, Edelmann RE, Kiss JZ (2013) Transcriptome analyses of Arabidopsis thaliana seedlings grown in space: implications for gravity-responsive genes. Planta 238:519–533CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Smith RH (2013) Plant tissue culture: techniques and experiments, 3rd edn. Academic Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

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

Personalised recommendations