Biotech Updates

Photosynthetic Algae Sent Into Space to Elucidate Key Plant Mechanisms

May 28, 2014

Scientists from USDA Agricultural Research Service and cooperators launched samples of green algae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii into outer space to study some of the key mechanisms that govern plant growth and photosynthesis.

During photosynthesis, a protein-pigment complex known as Photosystem II must be constantly fixed to repair the damage caused by sunlight and ultraviolet radiation. ARS plant physiologist Autar Mattoo and the rest of the research team wanted to evaluate the effects of microgravity, cosmic rays, high energy particles, and the ionizing radiation of space on the PSII complex, photosynthesis, and plant growth.

The alga are placed in airtight photo cells and launched into the space in a Soyuz space capsule where the alga stayed for 15 days. Results showed that some conditions of the space environment inhibited the ability of the control algae and two of the four mutant strains to photosynthesize and grow, both in space and later when they were brought back to Earth. However, two other mutant strains flourished, both in space and when they were back to Earth.

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