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Adv Space Res. 1999;24(6):755-62.

Spaceflight experiments with Arabidopsis starch-deficient mutants support a statolith-based model for graviperception.

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  • 1Department of Botany, Miami University, Oxford, OH 45056, USA.


In order to help resolve some of the controversy associated with ground-based research that has supported the starch-statolith theory of gravity perception in plants, we performed spaceflight experiments with Arabidopsis in Biorack during the January 1997 and May 1997 missions of the Space Shuttle. Seedlings of wild-type (WT) Arabidopsis, two reduced-starch strains, and a starchless mutant were grown in microgravity and then were given either a 30, 60, or 90 minute gravity stimulus on a centrifuge. By the 90 min 1-g stimulus, the WT exhibited the greatest magnitude of curvature and the starchless mutant exhibited the smallest curvature while the two reduced starch mutants had an intermediate magnitude of curvature. In addition, space-grown plants had two structural features that distinguished them from the controls: a greater number of root hairs and an anomalous hypocotyl hook structure. However, the morphological changes observed in the flight seedlings are likely to be due to the effects of ethylene present in the spacecraft. (Additional ground-based studies demonstrated that this level of ethylene did not significantly affect gravitropism nor did it affect the relative gravitropic sensitivity among the four strains.) Nevertheless, this experiment on gravitropism was performed the "right way" in that brief gravitational stimuli were provided, and the seedlings were allowed to express the response without further gravity stimuli. Our spaceflight results support previous ground-based studies of these and other mutants since increasing amounts of starch correlated positively with increasing sensitivity to gravity.

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