Influence of Microgravity on Euglena Gracilis and Physcomitrella Patens

research area: biology

experiment title:

Influence of Microgravity on Euglena Gracilis and Physcomitrella Patens

experiment acronym: Euglena Gracilis

funding agency: DLR

grant number: -

performing organization:

Department of Biology, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nürnberg /

Institute of Aerospace Medicine, DLR, Cologne

prime investigator:

PD Dr. Michael Lebert, Dr. Sebastian M. Strauch /

PD Dr. Ruth Hemmersbach, Dr. Jens Hauslage

experiment objective


The alga Euglena gracilis and the moss Physcomitrella patens are both highly sensitive in the perception of gravity (g). The stationary moss Physcomitrella patens shows a negative gravitropism of the protonemata while the mobile Euglena gracilis displays a negative gravitaxis and additionally phototaxis to reach optimal growth conditions in the water column.

For the identification of gravity related signaling pathways and adaptation mechanisms, the gene and protein expression level of the test systems will be analyzed. Therefore, the organisms have to be chemically fixed after exposure to microgravity. 

The helical swimming pattern of Euglena gracilis will be observed by monitoring the swimming path in a 3-dimensional analysis system for the first time. 

As Euglena gracilis is a suitable candidate for life support systems in long term space missions the alga will be part of the compact satellite project Eu:CROPIS (Euglena Combined Regenerative Organic-food Production In Space). For this upcoming space mission several hardware tests have to be performed under microgravity.


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  • [2] Häder D.-P., Richter P., Lebert M. (2006): Signal transduction in gravisensing of flagellates. Signal Transduction, 6, 422 – 431.
  • [3] Jékely G. (2009): Evolution of phototaxis. Philos. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B. Biol. Sci., 364, 2795 – 2808.
  • [4] Ghetti F., Colombetti G., Lenci F., Campani E., Polacco E., Quaglia M. (1985): Fluorescence of Euglena gracilis photoreceptor pigment: an in vitro microspectrofluorometric study. Photochem. Photobiol. 42: 29-33.
  • [5] Iseki M., Matsunaga S., Murakami A., Ohno K., Shiga K., Yoshida K., Sugai M., Takahashi T., Hori T., Watanabe M. (2002): A blue-light activated adenylyl cyclase mediates photoavoidance in Euglena gracilis. Nature, 415, 1047 – 1051.

experiment campaigns

experiment year: 2015
number of catapult launches: 3

experiment year: 2014
number of drops: 3
number of catapult launches: 1