RNA-Seq reveals that seeds stored in space environment have altered gene expression, reduced ability to germinate

Rice seeds were exposed outside of the international space station to assess the risk of space environment exposure on gene expression associated with seed germination. The germination percentages of the space-stored and ground-stored seeds exposed for 13 months were 48 and 96% respectively. Those for 20 months were 7 and 76%, respectively. Germination was defined 3 days after imbibition, except for the space-stored seeds exposed for 20 months, which germinated 5 days after imbibition. Subsequent RNA-seq analyses of the dry seeds, germinated seeds, and roots and shoots of seedlings revealed that the mutation rates of mRNA sequences were not significantly different between space-stored and ground-stored samples exposed for 13 months and 20 months. In all, 4 and 16 transcripts of glycolysis-related genes were increased in the germinated seeds after 13-month and 20-month exposure, respectively. Also, 2 and 39 transcripts of long-lived mRNA required for germination were decreased more than 2-fold in the dry seeds after 13-month and 20-month exposure, respectively. These results suggest that damage to long-lived mRNA in seeds by a space environment delays and reduces germination.

Distributions of transcripts increased and decreased in the space-stored samples


Total numbers of significantly increased (gray bar) and decreased (white bar) transcripts in each sample exposed to space for 13 months and 20 months were identified using RNA-seq in comparison with ground-stored samples of each. Bars show the number of transcripts with matching RAP-DB annotations.

Sugimoto M, Oono Y, Kawahara Y, Gusev O, Maekawa M, Matsumoto T, Levinskikh M, Sychev V, Novikova N, Grigoriev A. (2016) Gene expression of rice seeds surviving 13- and 20-month exposure to space environment. Life Sci Space Res (Amst) 11:10-17. [abstract]

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