Brassica rapa plants adapted to microgravity with reduced photosystem I and its photochemical activity

Physiol Plant. 2004 Oct;122(2):281-90. doi: 10.1111/j.1399-3054.2004.00400.x.


The photosynthetic apparatus contains several protein complexes, many of which are regulated by environmental conditions. In this study, the influences of microgravity on PSI and PSII in Brassica rapa plants grown aboard the space shuttle were examined. We found that Brassica plants grown in space had a normal level of growth relative to controls under similar conditions on Earth. Upon return to Earth, cotyledons were harvested and thylakoid membranes were isolated. Analysis of chlorophyll contents showed that the Chl a/b ratio (3.5) in flight cotyledons was much higher than a ratio of 2.42 in the ground controls. The flight samples also had a reduction of PSI complexes and a corresponding 30% decrease of PSI photochemical activity. Immunoblotting showed that the reaction centre polypeptides of PSI were more apparently decreased (e.g. by 24-33% for PsaA and PsaB, and 57% for PsaC) than the light-harvesting complexes. In comparison, the accumulation of PSII complex was less affected in microgravity, thus only a slight reduction in D1, D2 and LHCII was observed in protein blots. However, there was a 32% decrease of OEC1 in the flight samples, indicating a defective OEC subcomplex. In addition, an average 54% increase of the 54 kDa CF1-beta isoform was found in the flight samples, suggesting that space-grown plants suffered from certain stresses, consistent with implications of the increased Chl a/b ratio. Taken together, the results demonstrated that Brassica plants can adapt to spaceflight microgravity, but with significant alterations in chloroplast structures and photosynthetic complexes, and especially reduction of PSI and its activity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biomass
  • Brassica rapa / growth & development
  • Brassica rapa / metabolism*
  • Chlorophyll / metabolism*
  • Chlorophyll A
  • Chloroplasts / ultrastructure
  • Cotyledon
  • Electron Transport
  • Immunologic Techniques
  • Light-Harvesting Protein Complexes
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Photosynthesis / physiology*
  • Photosystem I Protein Complex / immunology
  • Photosystem I Protein Complex / metabolism*
  • Photosystem II Protein Complex / immunology
  • Photosystem II Protein Complex / metabolism*
  • Pigments, Biological / metabolism
  • Plant Leaves / metabolism
  • Space Flight*
  • Thylakoids / metabolism*
  • Thylakoids / ultrastructure
  • Weightlessness*


  • Light-Harvesting Protein Complexes
  • Photosystem I Protein Complex
  • Photosystem II Protein Complex
  • Pigments, Biological
  • Chlorophyll
  • chlorophyll b
  • Chlorophyll A