Cucumber! Grown in space for research

Cucumber feature specialized protuberances, or pegs, whose formation is regulated by gravity. These pegs form during the plant’s early growth stage to help the seedlings emerge from their hard seed coat and anchor the developing plant in the soil while its roots form.

Hideyuki Takahashi from Tohoku University in Japan explained that when seeds are placed in a vertical position before germination with their embryonic roots pointing down or subjected to microgravity conditions, a peg develops on each side. However, when they are place horizontally on the ground, peg formation on the upper side is suppressed in response to gravity.

Researchers loaded the cucumber seeds into specially designed canisters with water-absorbent plastic foam and these germinating seedlings were grown in the microgravity compartment of the cell biology experiment facility, in the ISS, for 24 hours.

The scientists found that the CsPIN1 protein can relocate under the influence of gravity, thus finding that this behavior stimulates the formation of a cellular canal capable of transporting growth hormones from one side of to the other. Read the full article here.

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