ASGSB 2002 Annual Meeting Abstracts


A PLANT GENETIC ASSESSMENT AND CONTROL SYSTEM FOR SPACE ENVIRONMENTS. T.L. Lomax and W.E. Winner. Dept. of Botany & Plant Pathology, Oregon State University, Corvallis.

   Plants will play an essential role in providing life support for any long-term space exploration.  Plant growth in space environments requires an adaptable system that measures the response of plants to any unique space condition, optimizes plant performance under those conditions, and provides cues for changing environmental factors.  We are exploring designs for a flexible module that will monitor plant responses to environmental changes by combining emerging technologies in the fields of plant genomics, microarray analysis of gene expression, bioinformatics, and whole plant physiology.

   The key to our approach is to use microarray analysis to monitor genetic activity for plants growing in defined environments.  The project exploits the completed sequences of two plant genomes (Arabidopsis and rice) that are now available, and the many plant genome sequences that will be known for other species in the future.  The expression of plant genes can be evaluated using microarray technology that simultaneously measures the responses of thousands of plant genes to environmental change.  Expression of specific plant genes will increase and decrease as plants regulate physiological processes to compensate for environmental changes. By systematically monitoring changes in gene expression and environmental factors, the physiological status of plants is defined. Environmental adjustments can then be made to alter gene expression, thereby controlling plant processes needed for growth and other life support processes.

   Future additions to the architecture will include the technical advances necessary for remote collection and evaluation of data. In addition, we are studying the major feasibility issues associated with cost, performance, development time, and key technology issues for developing the module for NASA. The research is being carried out in Phase II of a project funded by the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts.


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