Plant cell proliferation and growth are altered by microgravity conditions in spaceflight

I. Matia, F. Gonzalez-Camacho, R. Herranz, J.Z. Kiss, G. Gasset, J.J.W.A. van Loon, R. Marco, F.J. Medina

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    Seeds of Arabidopsis thaliana were sent to space and germinated in orbit. Seedlings grew for 4 d and were then fixed in-flight with paraformaldehyde. The experiment was replicated on the ground in a Random Positioning Machine, an effective simulator of microgravity. In addition, samples from a different space experiment, processed in a similar way but fixed in glutaraldehyde, including a control flight experiment in a 1g centrifuge, were also used. In all cases, comparisons were performed with ground controls at 1g. Seedlings grown in microgravity were significantly longer than the ground 1g controls. The cortical root meristematic cells were analyzed to investigate the alterations in cell proliferation and cell growth. Proliferation rate was quantified by counting the number of cells per millimeter in the specific cell files, and was found to be higher in microgravity-grown samples than in the control 1g. Cell growth was appraised through the rate of ribosome biogenesis, assessed by morphological and morphometrical parameters of the nucleolus and by the levels of the nucleolar protein nucleolin. All these parameters showed a depletion of the rate of ribosome production in microgravity-grown samples versus samples grown at 1g. The results show that growth in microgravity induces alterations in essential cellular functions. Cell growth and proliferation, which are strictly associated functions under normal ground conditions, appeared divergent after gravity modification; proliferation was enhanced, whereas growth was depleted. We suggest that the cause of these changes could be an alteration in the cell cycle regulation, at the levels of checkpoints regulating cell cycle progression, leading to a shortened G2 period.
    Original languageUndefined/Unknown
    Pages (from-to)184-193
    JournalJournal of Plant Physiology
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2010

    Cite this