Space Cucumbers Reveal How Plants Survive On The International Space Station

Posted: Dec 26 2016, 2:33am CST | by , in Latest Science News


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Space Cucumbers Reveal How Plants Survive on the International Space Station
Cucumber seedlings develop a peg on the lower side of the transition zone between hypocotyl and root. The peg holds the seed coat while the hypocotyl elongates to pull the cotyledons and plumule out from the seed coat. Credit: Image courtesy of Tohoku University
  • How space plants survive, learn from space cucumbers

New research shows how cucumber seeds germinate in microgravity, a project conducted at International Space Station.

Plants are very adaptable to the environment around them, and can survive by controlling their roots according to surroundings. Plants use special cells to detect gravity and equally distribute auxin hormones that help in growth.

But, the researchers wanted to solve how plants work at a cellular level. To get the answer, Japanese researchers studied cucumber seedlings to see how it germinated even in very weak gravity.

The researchers selected cucumber for this research, because they have pegs regulated by gravity. Melons, pumpkins and squash also have such features. Pegs develop during the initial growth stage, causing germination and grip the plant in the soil when its roots are developing.

A pegis formed on both sides of the seeds when they are planted in a vertical position in low gravity, stated Hideyuki Takahashi, who is a member of the Space and Adaption Biology Laboratory at Tohoku University's Graduate School of Life Sciences. But, in a horizontal position the peg development is suppressed due to gravity.

The research published in the journal Nature Microgravity that highlighted how gravity sensitive CsPINI protein helped in the process. Protein helps in the distribution of growth hormones and it was already tested on Earth.

The researchers placed cucumber seeds in canisters and sent it to space station. Then the researchers irrigated the plants through water absorbent plastic foam that caused germination of the seedlings.

The scientists preserved the seedlings sample with a mixture containing distilled water, ethanol and acetic acid. The researchers used a special technique to detect changes in the cells due to gravity. They studied the seedlings under microscope and found CsPINI protein that delocalizes due to gravity.

The change occurred between stem and roots of cucumber where pegs form. The researchers also detected that the cells create a canal that distribute growth hormones from one side to another side of the process zone. Seeds survive, because they grow according to the gravity.

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