Structure of potato tubers formed during spaceflight

Academic Article


  • Potato (Solanum tuberosum L. cv. Norland) explants, consisting of a leaf, axillary bud, and small stem segment, were used as a model system to study the influence of spaceflight on the formation of sessile tubers from axillary buds. The explants were flown on the space shuttle Columbia (STS-73, 20 October to 5 November 1995) in the ASTROCULTURE┬« flight package, which provided a controlled environment for plant growth. Light and scanning electron microscopy were used to compare the precisely ordered tissues of tubers formed on Earth with those formed during spaceflight. The structure of tubers produced during spaceflight was similar to that of tubers produced in a control experiment. The size and shape of tubers, the geometry of tuber tissues, and the distribution of starch grains and proteinaceous crystals were comparable in tubers formed in both environments. The shape, surface texture, and size range of starch grains from both environments were similar, but a greater percentage of smaller starch grains formed in spaceflight than on Earth. Since explant leaves must be of given developmental age before tubers form, instructions regarding the regular shape and ordered tissue geometry of tubers may have been provided in the presence of gravity. Regardless of when the signalling occurred, gravity was not required to produce a tuber of typical structure.
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    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Croxdale J; Cook M; Tibbitts TW; Brown CS; Wheeler RM
  • Start Page

  • 2037
  • End Page

  • 2043
  • Volume

  • 48
  • Issue

  • 317