Modeling Arabidopsis Responses to Microgravity

Dr. Sarah Wyatt and graduate student researcher Marilyn Hayden are converging their knowledge of genetic research and computer-assisted network analysis to build a novel computer model. The model will collectively present International Space Station (ISS) plant experiment data from the past 10 years. The meta-analysis will provide plant geneticists with a visual, interactive network model of the genes acting and interacting across the genome in response to microgravity conditions.NODEs

The network model is part of the Wyatt Lab’s current space-based research experiment, known as BRIC-20, and will include 47 space-based plant research projects conducted by international researchers aboard the ISS. Many international scientific journals have published some of the data, but a large portion of it has never been publicly available.

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gps2 Mutant Candidate Gene Identified

The Wyatt Lab researchers studying the gps2 mutant genome have identified a gene that appears to play a significant role in plant signal transduction. The candidate gene was identified through deep sequencing of the gps2 mutant genome and then comparing the results to the wild type (WT) genome. The analysis revealed a difference of a single gene in one area of the genome associated with plant signaling which had been disrupted by a semi-random T-DNA insertion that silenced (or shut off) the gene in the mutant. In the WT genome, the gps2 gene is intact and expresses normally during GPS treatment. Continue reading

Fun Facts – Why Arabidopsis?

If NASA is going to spend all the time and trouble to send plants into space aboard the International Space Station (ISS), you might wonder why Arabidopsis thaliana?

Arabidopsis thaliana (commonly called Arabidopsis)  is a small flowering plant native to Eurasia. Arabidopsis has enjoyed a long history as a model organism for scientists interested in plant biology and genomic research. Model plants are selected for their traits with the understanding that insights into the research model plant will yield insights to other plant species. One key aspect that makes Arabidopsis a good model organism is its genome. Arabidopsis has one of the smallest genomes of any plant, and as a result of its reduced genetic complexity, it was the first plant genome to be sequenced in full.

Another important quality that makes Arabidopsis so attractive to gene hunters is its size. The Arabidopsis seeds are so tiny Wyatt Lab researchers will plate 800 seeds to a single petri dish, and this is mission critical for two reasons. First, space is limited aboard the ISS, and as a result, the Wyatt Lab is only allotted 20 petri dishes total. And since the researchers need plant tissue to extract both protein and RNA, the more seeds that can fit on a dish, the better.

In summary, by sending a model organism (in this case, Arabidopsis) into space, Wyatt Lab researchers are able to tap into and leverage the enormous amount of genomic research already compiled on this amazing little space traveller. And after all, why reinvent the allele?

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