Seed-to-seed-to-seed growth and development of Arabidopsis in microgravity

Astrobiology. 2014 Oct;14(10):866-75. doi: 10.1089/ast.2014.1184.


Arabidopsis thaliana was grown from seed to seed wholly in microgravity on the International Space Station. Arabidopsis plants were germinated, grown, and maintained inside a growth chamber prior to returning to Earth. Some of these seeds were used in a subsequent experiment to successfully produce a second (back-to-back) generation of microgravity-grown Arabidopsis. In general, plant growth and development in microgravity proceeded similarly to those of the ground controls, which were grown in an identical chamber. Morphologically, the most striking feature of space-grown Arabidopsis was that the secondary inflorescence branches and siliques formed nearly perpendicular angles to the inflorescence stems. The branches grew out perpendicularly to the main inflorescence stem, indicating that gravity was the key determinant of branch and silique angle and that light had either no role or a secondary role in Arabidopsis branch and silique orientation. Seed protein bodies were 55% smaller in space seed than in controls, but protein assays showed only a 9% reduction in seed protein content. Germination rates for space-produced seed were 92%, indicating that the seeds developed in microgravity were healthy and viable. Gravity is not necessary for seed-to-seed growth of plants, though it plays a direct role in plant form and may influence seed reserves.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / growth & development*
  • Arabidopsis / ultrastructure
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / metabolism
  • Cotyledon / cytology
  • Extraterrestrial Environment
  • Seeds / cytology
  • Seeds / growth & development*
  • Seeds / ultrastructure
  • Space Flight
  • Weightlessness*


  • Arabidopsis Proteins