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Planta. 1991;185:153-61.

Oriented movement of statoliths studied in a reduced gravitational field during parabolic flights of rockets.

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Botanisches Institut, Universitat Bonn, Federal Republic of Germany.


During five rocket flights (TEXUS 18, 19, 21, 23 and 25), experiments were performed to investigate the behaviour of statoliths in rhizoids of the green alga Charo globularia Thuill. and in statocytes of cress (Lepidium sativum L.) roots, when the gravitational field changed to approx. l0(-4) g (i.e. microgravity) during the parabolic flight (lasting for 301-390 s) of the rockets. The position of statoliths was only slightly influenced by the conditions during launch, e.g. vibration, acceleration and rotation of the rocket. Within approx. 6 min of microgravity conditions the shape of the statolith complex in the rhizoids changed from a transversely oriented lens into a longitudinally oriented spindle. The center of the statolith complex moved approx. 14 micrometers and 3.6 micrometers in rhizoids and root statocytes, respectively, in the opposite direction to the originally acting gravity vector. The kinetics of statolith displacement in rhizoids demonstrate that the velocity was nearly constant under microgravity whereas it decreased remarkably after inversion of rhizoids on Earth. It can be concluded that on Earth the position of statoliths in both rhizoids and root statocytes depends on the balance of two forces, i.e. the gravitational force and the counteracting force mediated by microfilaments.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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