Testing the Bio-compatibility of Aluminum PDFU BRIC Hardware

Eric R Schultz, Agata K Zupanska, Susan Manning-Roach, Jose Camacho, Howard Levine, Anna-Lisa Paul, Robert J Ferl


Biological research in an orbital environment necessitates the containment of the sample and its associated chemical fixatives. The Biological Research in Canisters (BRIC) hardware developed by Kennedy Space Center has been widely used in several configurations to support biological experiments on the Shuttle and ISS. The current model of BRIC hardware contains six Petri Dish Fixation Units (PDFUs), each of which holds one Petri plate containing the specimen. This study compares traditional polycarbonate PDFUs to PDFUs primarily composed of aluminum with respect to their biocompatibility with Arabidopsis thaliana (Arabidopsis) growth and development. Seeds were planted on nutrient agar plates and inserted into either polycarbonate or aluminum PDFUs, which were then secured in the BRIC hardware. Plates were allowed to develop in the PDFUs in the dark for a period of 12 days, after which they were preserved by either RNAlater or Glutaraldehyde, harvested, photographed, RNA-extracted, and prepared for gene expression analyses. Direct comparison of the etiolated Arabidopsis seedlings from the polycarbonate and aluminum PDFUs presented no discernible morphological differences, nor were there any significant differences between the expression levels of several target genes chosen for their sensitivity in reporting an aluminum stress response.


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