Early development of fern gametophytes in microgravity

Adv Space Res. 2003;31(1):215-20. doi: 10.1016/s0273-1177(02)00749-4.


Dormant spores of the fern Ceratopteris richardii were flown on Shuttle mission STS-93 to evaluate the effects of micro-g on their development and on their pattern of gene expression. Prior to flight the spores were sterilized and sown into one of two environments: (1) Microscope slides in a video-microscopy module; and (2) Petri dishes. All spores were then stored in darkness until use. Spore germination was initiated on orbit after exposure to light. For the spores on microscope slides, cell level changes were recorded through the clear spore coat of the spores by video microscopy. After their exposure to light, spores in petri dishes were frozen in orbit at four different time points during which on earth gravity fixes the polarity of their development. Spores were then stored frozen in Biological Research in Canister units until recovery on earth. The RNAs from these cells and from 1-g control cells were extracted and analyzed on earth after flight to assay changes in gene expression. Video microscopy results revealed that the germinated spores developed normally in microgravity, although the polarity of their development, which is guided by gravity on earth, was random in space. Differential Display-PCR analyses of RNA extracted from space-flown cells showed that there was about a 5% change in the pattern of gene expression between cells developing in micro-g compared to those developing on earth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Nucleus / physiology
  • Cell Polarity / physiology
  • Equipment Design
  • Ferns / embryology
  • Ferns / genetics
  • Ferns / physiology*
  • Gene Expression / physiology*
  • Germination / genetics
  • Germination / physiology*
  • Microscopy, Video
  • RNA, Plant
  • Space Flight / instrumentation*
  • Spores / cytology
  • Spores / genetics
  • Spores / physiology
  • Weightlessness*


  • RNA, Plant