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Am J Bot. 1995 May;82(5):585-95.

Pollen and ovule development in Arabidopsis thaliana under spaceflight conditions.

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  • 1Department of Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology, Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, Baton Rouge 70803, USA.


The development of pollen and ovules in Arabidopsis thaliana on the space shuttle 'Endeavour' (STS-54) was investigated. Plants were grown on nutrient agar for 14 days prior to loading into closed plant growth chambers that received light and temperature control inside the Plant Growth Unit flight hardware on the shuttle middeck. After 6 days in spaceflight the plants were retrieved and immediately dissected and processed for light and electron microscope observation. Reproductive development aborted at an early stage. Pistils were collapsed and ovules inside were seen to he empty. No viable pollen was observed from STS-54 plants; young microspores were deformed and empty. At a late stage, the cytoplasm of the pollen contracted and became disorganized, but the pollen wall developed and the exine appeared normal. The tapetum in the flight flowers degenerated at early stages. Ovules from STS-54 flight plants stopped growing and the integuments and nucellus collapsed and degenerated. The megasporocytes appeared abnormal and rarely underwent meiosis. Apparently they enlarged, or occasionally produced a dyad or tetrad, to assume the form of a female gametophyte with the single nucleus located in an egglike cell that lacks a cell wall. Synergids, polar nuclei, and antipodals were not observed. The results demonstrate the types of lesions occurring in plant reproductive material under spaceflight conditions.

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