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1.  Meristematic cell proliferation and ribosome biogenesis are decoupled in diamagnetically levitated Arabidopsis seedlings 
BMC Plant Biology  2013;13:124.
Cell growth and cell proliferation are intimately linked in the presence of Earth’s gravity, but are decoupled under the microgravity conditions present in orbiting spacecraft. New technologies to simulate microgravity conditions for long-duration experiments, with stable environmental conditions, in Earth-based laboratories are required to further our understanding of the effect of extraterrestrial conditions on the growth, development and health of living matter.
We studied the response of transgenic seedlings of Arabidopsis thaliana, containing either the CycB1-GUS proliferation marker or the DR5-GUS auxin-mediated growth marker, to diamagnetic levitation in the bore of a superconducting solenoid magnet. As a control, a second set of seedlings were exposed to a strong magnetic field, but not to levitation forces. A third set was exposed to a strong field and simulated hypergravity (2 g). Cell proliferation and cell growth cytological parameters were measured for each set of seedlings. Nucleolin immunodetection was used as a marker of cell growth. Collectively, the data indicate that these two fundamental cellular processes are decoupled in root meristems, as in microgravity: cell proliferation was enhanced whereas cell growth markers were depleted. These results also demonstrated delocalisation of auxin signalling in the root tip despite the fact that levitation of the seedling as a whole does not prevent the sedimentation of statoliths in the root cells.
In our model system, we found that diamagnetic levitation led to changes that are very similar to those caused by real- [e.g. on board the International Space Station (ISS)] or mechanically-simulated microgravity [e.g. using a Random Positioning Machine (RPM)]. These changes decoupled meristematic cell proliferation from ribosome biogenesis, and altered auxin polar transport.
PMCID: PMC3847623  PMID: 24006876
2.  Effects of N6-benzylaminopurine and Indole Acetic Acid on In Vitro Shoot Multiplication, Nodule-like Meristem Proliferation and Plant Regeneration of Malaysian Bananas (Musa spp.) 
Different concentrations of N6-benzylaminopurine (BAP) and indole acetic acid (IAA) in Murashige and Skoog based medium were assessed for their effects on shoot multiplication, nodule-like meristem proliferation and plant regeneration of the Malaysian banana cultivars Pisang Mas, Pisang Nangka, Pisang Berangan and Pisang Awak. BAP at 1–14 mg L−1 with or without 0.2 mg L−1 IAA, or BAP at 7–14 mg L−1 with the same concentration of IAA, was evaluated for shoot multiplication from shoot tips and the proliferation of nodule-like meristems from scalps, respectively. Plant regeneration from scalps was assessed using 1 mg L−1 BAP and 0.2 mg L−1 IAA separately, or a combination of these two growth regulators. Data on shoot multiplication, the proliferation of nodule-like meristems with associated plant regeneration were recorded after 30 days of culture. A maximum of 5 shoots per original shoot tip was achieved on medium supplemented with BAP at 5 mg L−1 (Pisang Nangka), 6 mg L−1 (Pisang Mas and Pisang Berangan), or 7 mg L−1 (Pisang Awak), with 0.2 mg L−1 IAA. BAP at 11 mg L−1 with 0.2 mg L−1 IAA induced the most highly proliferating nodule-like meristems in the four banana cultivars. Plant regeneration from scalps was optimum in all cases on medium containing 1 mg L−1 BAP and 0.2 mg L−1 IAA. This is the first report on the successful induction of highly proliferating nodule-like meristems and plant regeneration from scalps of the Malaysian banana cultivars Pisang Mas, Pisang Nangka, Pisang Berangan and Pisang Awak.
PMCID: PMC3799403  PMID: 24575235
Bananas; Meristems; Plant Regeneration; Scalps; Shoot Tips
3.  Somatic hybrid plants of Nicotiana × sanderae (+) N. debneyi with fungal resistance to Peronospora tabacina 
Annals of Botany  2011;108(5):809-819.
Background and Aims
The genus Nicotiana includes diploid and tetraploid species, with complementary ecological, agronomic and commercial characteristics. The species are of economic value for tobacco, as ornamentals, and for secondary plant-product biosynthesis. They show substantial differences in disease resistance because of their range of secondary products. In the last decade, sexual hybridization and transgenic technologies have tended to eclipse protoplast fusion for gene transfer. Somatic hybridization was exploited in the present investigation to generate a new hybrid combination involving two sexually incompatible tetraploid species. The somatic hybrid plants were characterized using molecular, molecular cytogenetic and phenotypic approaches.
Mesophyll protoplasts of the wild fungus-resistant species N. debneyi (2n = 4x = 48) were electrofused with those of the ornamental interspecific sexual hybrid N. × sanderae (2n = 2x = 18). From 1570 protoplast-derived cell colonies selected manually in five experiments, 580 tissues were sub-cultured to shoot regeneration medium. Regenerated plants were transferred to the glasshouse and screened for their morphology, chromosomal composition and disease resistance.
Key Results
Eighty-nine regenerated plants flowered; five were confirmed as somatic hybrids by their intermediate morphology compared with parental plants, cytological constitution and DNA-marker analysis. Somatic hybrid plants had chromosome complements of 60 or 62. Chromosomes were identified to parental genomes by genomic in situ hybridization and included all 18 chromosomes from N. × sanderae, and 42 or 44 chromosomes from N. debneyi. Four or six chromosomes of one ancestral genome of N. debneyi were eliminated during culture of electrofusion-treated protoplasts and plant regeneration. Both chloroplasts and mitochondria of the somatic hybrid plants were probably derived from N. debneyi. All somatic hybrid plants were fertile. In contrast to parental plants of N. × sanderae, the seed progeny of somatic hybrid plants were resistant to infection by Peronospora tabacina, a trait introgressed from the wild parent, N. debneyi.
Sexual incompatibility between N. × sanderae and N. debneyi was circumvented by somatic hybridization involving protoplast fusion. Asymmetrical nuclear hybridity was seen in the hybrids with loss of chromosomes, although importantly, somatic hybrids were fertile and stable. Expression of fungal resistance makes these somatic hybrids extremely valuable germplasm in future breeding programmes in ornamental tobacco.
PMCID: PMC3177675  PMID: 21880657
Chloroplast DNA (cpDNA); protoplasts; electrofusion; fungal resistance; genomic in situ hybridization (GISH); mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA); Nicotiana debneyi; N. × sanderae; Peronospora tabacina; random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD); somatic hybridization
4.  Diamagnetic levitation enhances growth of liquid bacterial cultures by increasing oxygen availability 
Diamagnetic levitation is a technique that uses a strong, spatially varying magnetic field to reproduce aspects of weightlessness, on the Earth. We used a superconducting magnet to levitate growing bacterial cultures for up to 18 h, to determine the effect of diamagnetic levitation on all phases of the bacterial growth cycle. We find that diamagnetic levitation increases the rate of population growth in a liquid culture and reduces the sedimentation rate of the cells. Further experiments and microarray gene analysis show that the increase in growth rate is owing to enhanced oxygen availability. We also demonstrate that the magnetic field that levitates the cells also induces convective stirring in the liquid. We present a simple theoretical model, showing how the paramagnetic force on dissolved oxygen can cause convection during the aerobic phases of bacterial growth. We propose that this convection enhances oxygen availability by transporting oxygen around the liquid culture. Since this process results from the strong magnetic field, it is not present in other weightless environments, e.g. in Earth orbit. Hence, these results are of significance and timely to researchers considering the use of diamagnetic levitation to explore effects of weightlessness on living organisms and on physical phenomena.
PMCID: PMC3030818  PMID: 20667843
diamagnetic levitation; bacterial growth; convection; sedimentation; simulated microgravity; weightlessness
5.  Microgravity simulation by diamagnetic levitation: effects of a strong gradient magnetic field on the transcriptional profile of Drosophila melanogaster 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:52.
Many biological systems respond to the presence or absence of gravity. Since experiments performed in space are expensive and can only be undertaken infrequently, Earth-based simulation techniques are used to investigate the biological response to weightlessness. A high gradient magnetic field can be used to levitate a biological organism so that its net weight is zero.
We have used a superconducting magnet to assess the effect of diamagnetic levitation on the fruit fly D. melanogaster in levitation experiments that proceeded for up to 22 consecutive days. We have compared the results with those of similar experiments performed in another paradigm for microgravity simulation, the Random Positioning Machine (RPM). We observed a delay in the development of the fruit flies from embryo to adult. Microarray analysis indicated changes in overall gene expression of imagoes that developed from larvae under diamagnetic levitation, and also under simulated hypergravity conditions. Significant changes were observed in the expression of immune-, stress-, and temperature-response genes. For example, several heat shock proteins were affected. We also found that a strong magnetic field, of 16.5 Tesla, had a significant effect on the expression of these genes, independent of the effects associated with magnetically-induced levitation and hypergravity.
Diamagnetic levitation can be used to simulate an altered effective gravity environment in which gene expression is tuned differentially in diverse Drosophila melanogaster populations including those of different age and gender. Exposure to the magnetic field per se induced similar, but weaker, changes in gene expression.
PMCID: PMC3305489  PMID: 22296880
6.  Effect of magnetically simulated zero-gravity and enhanced gravity on the walk of the common fruitfly† 
Understanding the effects of gravity on biological organisms is vital to the success of future space missions. Previous studies in Earth orbit have shown that the common fruitfly (Drosophila melanogaster) walks more quickly and more frequently in microgravity, compared with its motion on Earth. However, flight preparation procedures and forces endured on launch made it difficult to implement on the Earth's surface a control that exposed flies to the same sequence of major physical and environmental changes. To address the uncertainties concerning these behavioural anomalies, we have studied the walking paths of D. melanogaster in a pseudo-weightless environment (0g*) in our Earth-based laboratory. We used a strong magnetic field, produced by a superconducting solenoid, to induce a diamagnetic force on the flies that balanced the force of gravity. Simultaneously, two other groups of flies were exposed to a pseudo-hypergravity environment (2g*) and a normal gravity environment (1g*) within the spatially varying field. The flies had a larger mean speed in 0g* than in 1g*, and smaller in 2g*. The mean square distance travelled by the flies grew more rapidly with time in 0g* than in 1g*, and slower in 2g*. We observed no other clear effects of the magnetic field, up to 16.5 T, on the walks of the flies. We compare the effect of diamagnetically simulated weightlessness with that of weightlessness in an orbiting spacecraft, and identify the cause of the anomalous behaviour as the altered effective gravity.
PMCID: PMC3367808  PMID: 22219396
diamagnetic levitation; microgravity; Drosophila melanogaster; motility; diffusion
7.  Effects of Glucosinolates and Flavonoids on Colonization of the Roots of Brassica napus by Azorhizobium caulinodans ORS571 
Plants of Brassica napus were assessed quantitatively for their susceptibility to lateral root crack colonization by Azorhizobium caulinodans ORS571(pXLGD4) (a rhizobial strain carrying the lacZ reporter gene) and for the concentration of glucosinolates in their roots by high-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC). High- and low-glucosinolate-seed (HGS and LGS) varieties exhibited a relatively low and high percentage of colonized lateral roots, respectively. HPLC showed that roots of HGS plants contained a higher concentration of glucosinolates than roots of LGS plants. One LGS variety showing fewer colonized lateral roots than other LGS varieties contained a higher concentration of glucosinolates than other LGS plants. Inoculated HGS plants treated with the flavonoid naringenin showed significantly more colonization than untreated HGS plants. This increase was not mediated by a naringenin-induced lowering of the glucosinolate content of HGS plant roots, nor did naringenin induce bacterial resistance to glucosinolates or increase the growth of bacteria. The erucic acid content of seed did not appear to influence colonization by azorhizobia. Frequently, leaf assays are used to study glucosinolates and plant defense; this study provides data on glucosinolates and bacterial colonization in roots and describes a bacterial reporter gene assay tailored easily to the study of ecologically important phytochemicals that influence bacterial colonization. These data also form a basis for future assessments of the benefits to oilseed rape plants of interaction with plant growth-promoting bacteria, especially diazotrophic bacteria potentially able to extend the benefits of nitrogen fixation to nonlegumes.
PMCID: PMC101471  PMID: 10788398

Results 1-7 (7)