Investigating root nodule symbiosis between Medicago truncatula and Sinorhizobium meliloti on the ISS

The Experiment News

Team Glücksklee

We are a team of 10 members with backgrounds in the fields of mechanical engineering, computer science, plant cultivation, horticulture, plant biotechnology, and biochemistry. We are currently participating in the "Uerberflieger 2" competition, where we have been chosen to study different aspects of plant-bacteria symbiosis between M. truncatula, a clover model plant, and S. meliloti, a nitrogen fixating bacteria in an experiment on the International Space Station. This website will keep you up to date on our progress, we will document every step of the way, every obstacle we have to overcome, towards cultivating plants in space and we hope that our little experiment will motivate more people to persue a career in science or engineering.

The Überflieger2 project

Überflieger2 is a competition für german and luxembourg students, to demonstrate their investiveness. The best ideas got the chance to enter the ISS for about 1 month and collect important data for science. Luckily we are one of the winner teams and are able to send our experiment to the ISS! If you are interested in the initiators and sponsors of this project, jus have a look on our sponsors.

Our motivation

Emeritus Prof. Günther Scherer worked at Leibniz Universität Hannover, in the Institute of Biological Production Systems, working on the effect of gravity on the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana and their root formations and on effects of the phytohormone auxin in connection with low gravity. His scientific posters are still shown on the floors of our campus. His work is inspiring for what plant science can be and he has shown that there is no limit for plants. Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Helge Küster and his work on M. truncatula and its symbiotic partners are well known by students through multiple classes. And for us, focusing our research on the benefits of a caring community is near the zeitgeist of our modern society and what we stand for. The ISS, International Space Station, is a beacon of hope in an ever-growing global world that has seen a drastic decay in trust and science over the past few years. Something that we, as young scientists, try to oppose by celebrating the people from all over the world, coming together and representing what life on Earth could be - united to reach new highs.
It all came naturally together - combining the working fields of both, current research, and established knowledge to ask ourselves:
If root growth is different in space (they grow in coils) and nodules are developed by bacteria infecting the roots, what happens to the root symbiosis under microgravity? Also, it is known that bacteria are influenced by low gravity. Does the symbiosis still function, or might it be reduced? Is it possible that they could be enhanced? What kind of new understanding could we get from this observation?