Plant RNA Regulation Redux in Multi Variable Platform (MVP-Plant-01) profiles and monitors shoot and root development in plants in microgravity, in order to understand the molecular mechanisms and regulatory networks behind how plants sense and adapt to changes in their environment. This understanding could contribute to the design of plants better able to withstand adverse environmental conditions, including long-duration spaceflight.
Delivery to the International Space Station via SpaceX Commercial Resupply Service Mission-24 (SpX-24)
Plants represent a vital part of human life support systems for long-duration spaceflight and habitation. However, the space environment is not optimal for plant growth. Plants grown in space are subject to many unfamiliar stresses (in addition to the lack of gravity), and recent transcriptional profiling studies indicate that there are global changes in gene expression between space and ground controls. Post transcriptional regulation of RNA is emerging as an important mechanism of modulating gene expression under different environmental conditions. To date however, the role of small regulatory RNAs in plant responses to the space environment has not been investigated.
A previous spaceflight experiment, Plant RNA Regulation (PRR), was designed to generate comprehensive datasets for gene expression, small RNA species, and protein profiles from wild type Arabidopsis grown under the same set of physiologically relevant experimental conditions. Given the cost and limited availability of spaceflight opportunities, the goal was to maximize the scientific potential of the investigation. The investigation utilized the European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS) facility, which provided two critically important parameters for plant spaceflight experiments: 1) the capacity for providing a “1 g control in space”, and 2) a lighted environment for plant growth. Unfortunately, due to unknown factor (s), germination of PRR was reduced and growth of the seedlings was compromised - severely limiting the scope of the downstream analysis.
The Plant RNA Regulation Redux in Multi Variable Platform (MVP-PLANT-01) investigation provides the opportunity to accomplish the major objectives of PRR (with some modifications), and also serves as a test of the Techshot MVP Phytofuge experiment modules for future plant investigations.
Plants will serve as a vital part of human life support systems for long-duration spaceflight and habitation of the Moon and Mars. This investigation addresses questions about genetic changes underlying the physiological responses of plants to the stresses of spaceflight and could contribute to the development of plants adapted to meet the needs of future explorers.
Knowledge gained from this work provides a framework to help design plants that are better adapted to adverse environments on Earth, an important benefit in the face of global climate change.