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Ann Bot. 1996;78:343-51.

Cytochemical localization of reserves during seed development in Arabidopsis thaliana under spaceflight conditions.

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Department of Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge 70803, USA.
LA St U, Baton Rouge


Successful development of seeds under spaceflight conditions has been an elusive goal of numerous long-duration experiments with plants on orbital spacecraft. Because carbohydrate metabolism undergoes changes when plants are grown in microgravity, developing seed storage reserves might be detrimentally affected during spaceflight. Seed development in Arabidopsis thaliana plants that flowered during 11 d in space on shuttle mission STS-68 has been investigated in this study. Plants were grown to the rosette stage (13 d) on a nutrient agar medium on the ground and loaded into the Plant Growth Unit flight hardware 18 h prior to lift-off. Plants were retrieved 3 h after landing and siliques were immediately removed from plants. Young seeds were fixed and processed for microscopic observation. Seeds in both the ground control and flight plants are similar in their morphology and size. The oldest seeds from these plants contain completely developed embryos and seed coats. These embryos developed radicle, hypocotyl, meristematic apical tissue, and differentiated cotyledons. Protoderm, procambium, and primary ground tissue had differentiated. Reserves such as starch and protein were deposited in the embryos during tissue differentiation. The aleurone layer contains a large quantity of storage protein and starch grains. A seed coat developed from integuments of the ovule with gradual change in cell composition and cell material deposition. Carbohydrates were deposited in outer integument cells especially in the outside cell walls. Starch grains decreased in number per cell in the integument during seed coat development. All these characteristics during seed development represent normal features in the ground control plants and show that the spaceflight environment does not prevent normal development of seeds in Arabidopsis.

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