Composition and physical properties of starch in microgravity-grown plants

Academic Article


  • The effect of spaceflight on starch development in soybean (Glycine max L., BRIC-03) and potato (Solanum tuberosum, Astroculture-05) was compared with ground controls by biophysical and biochemical measurements. Starch grains from plants from both flights were on average 20-50% smaller in diameter than ground controls. The ratio △/△ ρ (△ - difference of magnetic susceptibilities, △ ρ - difference of densities between starch and water) of starch grains was ca. 15% and 4% higher for space-grown soybean cotyledons and potato tubers, respectively, than in corresponding ground controls. Since the densities of particles were similar for all samples (1.36 to 1.38 g/cm 3 ), the observed difference in △/△ρ was due to different magnetic susceptibilities and indicates modified composition of starch grains. In starch preparations from soybean cotyledons (BRIC-03) subjected to controlled enzymatic degradation with α-amylase for 24 hours, 77±6% of the starch from the flight cotyledons was degraded compared to 58±12% in ground controls. The amylose content in starch was also higher in space-grown tissues. The good correlation between the amylose content and △/△ρ suggests, that the magnetic susceptibility of starch grains is related to their amylose content. Since the seedlings from the BRIC-03 experiment showed elevated post-flight ethylene levels, material from another flight experiment (GENEX) which had normal levels of ethylene was examined and showed no difference to ground controls in size distribution, density, △/△ρ and amylose content. Therefore the role of ethylene appears to be more important for changes in starch metabolism than microgravity. © 2001 COSPAR. Published by Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
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    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Kuznetsov OA; Brown CS; Levine HG; Piastuch WC; Sanwo-Lewandowski MM; Hasenstein KH
  • Start Page

  • 651
  • End Page

  • 658
  • Volume

  • 28
  • Issue

  • 4