Plants have evolved and grown under the selection pressure of gravitational force at 1 g on Earth. In response to this selection pressure, plants have acquired gravitropism to sense gravity and change their growth direction. In addition, plants also adjust their morphogenesis in response to different gravitational forces in a phenomenon known as gravity resistance. However, the gravity resistance phenomenon in plants is poorly understood due to the prevalence of 1 g gravitational force on Earth: not only it is difficult to culture plants at gravity > 1 g(hypergravity) for a long period of time but it is also impossible to create a < 1 genvironment (μg, micro g) on Earth without specialized facilities. Despite these technical challenges, it is important to understand how plants grow in different gravity conditions in order to understand land plant adaptation to the 1 g environment or for outer space exploration. To address this, we have developed a centrifugal device for a prolonged duration of plant culture in hypergravity conditions, and a project to grow plants under the μg environment in the International Space Station is also underway. Our plant material of choice is Physcomitrium (Physcomitrella) patens, one of the pioneer plants on land and a model bryophyte often used in plant biology. In this review, we summarize our latest findings regarding P. patens growth response to hypergravity, with reference to our on-going “Space moss” project. In our ground-based hypergravity experiments, we analyzed the morphological and physiological changes and found unexpected increments of chloroplast size and photosynthesis rate, which might underlie the enhancement of growth and increase in the number of gametophores and rhizoids. We further discussed our approaches at the cellular level and compare the gravity resistance in mosses and that in angiosperms. Finally, we highlight the advantages and perspectives from the space experiments and conclude that research with bryophytes is beneficial to comprehensively and precisely understand gravitational responses in plants.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Agronomy and Crop Science
- Plant Science