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Growth and Metabolism of the Green Alga, Chlorella Pyrenoidosa, in Simulated MicrogravityThe effect of microgravity on living organisms during space flight has been a topic of interest for some time, and a substantial body of knowledge on the subject has accumulated. Despite this, comparatively little information is available regarding the influence of microgravity on algae, even though it has been suggested for long duration flight or occupancy in space that plant growth systems, including both higher plants and algae, are likely to be necessary for bioregenerative life support systems. High-Aspect-Ratio Rotating-Wall Vessel or HARV bioreactors developed at Johnson Space Center provide a laboratory-based approach to investigating the effects of microgravity on cellular reactions. In this study, the HARV bioreactor was used to examine the influence of simulated microgravity on the growth and metabolism of the green alga, Chlorella pyrenoidosa. After the first 2 days of culture, cell numbers increased more slowly in simulated microgravity than in the HARV gravity control; after 7 days, growth in simulated microgravity was just over half (58%) that of the gravity control and at 14 days it was less than half (42%). Chlorophyll and protein were also followed as indices of cell competence and function; as with growth, after 2-3 days, protein and chlorophyll levels were reduced in modeled microgravity compared to gravity controls. Photosynthesis is a sensitive biochemical index of the fitness of photosynthetic organisms; thus, CO2-dependent O2 evolution was tested as a measure of photosynthetic capacity of cells grown in simulated microgravity. When data were expressed with respect to cell number, modeled microgravity appeared to have little effect on CO2 fixation. Thus, even though the overall growth rate was lower for cells cultured in microgravity, the photosynthetic capacity of the cells appears to be unaffected. Cells grown in simulated microgravity formed loose clumps or aggregates within about 2 days of culture, with aggregation increasing over time. Presently, the basis for, or significance of, the cell aggregation is unknown. The results from this study suggest that cell growth and morphological characteristics of green algae may be altered by culture in simulated microgravity. The data obtained to date should provide a solid basis for additional experimentation regarding the influence of modeled microgravity on cell morphology, physiological activity, protein production and possibly gene expression in algal and plant cell systems. The final aim of the study is to provide useful information to elucidate the underlying mechanism for the biological effects of microgravity on cells.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Johnson Space Center
Document Type
Mills, W. Ronald
(Houston Univ.-Clear Lake Houston, TX, United States)
Date Acquired
September 7, 2013
Publication Date
March 1, 2003
Publication Information
Publication: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)/American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) Summer Faculty Fellowship Program - 2000
Subject Category
Man/System Technology And Life Support
Funding Number(s)
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
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