RNAlater Tissue Collection: RNA Stabilization Solution is an aqueous tissue storage reagent that protects RNA within intact, unfrozen tissue and cell samples. RNAlater® Solution was designed to eliminate the need to process samples as soon as they are harvested. This is particularly important when it is not possible to immediately freeze or process samples and an effective reagent is required to stabilize RNA within samples.

We have been sharing interesting ways that customers use RNAlater Solution in TechNotes for several years. When we received this report from Dr. Stutte at the Kennedy Space Center, it reminded us of our first article on the use of RNAlater in spaceflight—way back in 2001. Here we reprint that first article on extraterrestrial use of RNAlater Solution next to a brief synopsis of a recent paper describing how RNAlater Solution facilitated scientific experiments on the International Space Station.

The Present: RNAlater Solution Facilitates Study on the Effects of Microgravity on Plants at the International Space Station

The use of plants as a biological support system has been proposed for Moon or Mars bases. Plants regenerate atmosphere, purify water, and produce food. A recent paper by Dr. Stutte and colleagues (Kennedy Space Center, Kennedy, FL; US Dairy Forage Research Center, Madison, WI; University of Florida, Gainesville, FL; University of South Florida, Tampa, FL) describes experiments that studied the effects of microgravity on chloroplast development, carbohydrate metabolism, and gene expression in developing wheat leaves [1].

Gravity-naïve wheat plants were sampled from a series of experiments conducted over 73 days onboard the International Space Station. Leaves were also collected from 14- and 24-day-old plants in space. Control plants were grown under identical light, temperature, relative humidity, photoperiod, CO 2, and planting density. Depending on the downstream analysis, samples were either fixed in 3% glutaraldehyde, stored in RNAlater Tissue Collection: RNA Stabilization Solution, or frozen at -25°C. For example, samples destined for RNA analysis by microarray profiling were stored in RNA later Solution.

Few morphologic differences were observed between plants grown at earth’s gravity and in microgravity. No differences were observed in starch, sugar, lignin, or gene expression. Data suggest that the spaceflight environment had little effect on wheat metabolism is maintained in the spaceflight environment.

Six Years Ago: RNAlater Solution is Instrumental in Study of Zero Gravity Effects on Renal Cells Grown on the Space Shuttle

RNAlater Solution in Spaceflight

In its brief history, RNA later Solution has become an indispensable product. It has accompanied researchers to thermal vents in the deepest waters of the Pacific, to remote islands and coral reefs, and into operating rooms of hospitals; situations where flash-freezing tissue in liquid nitrogen is impractical.

Now, RNA later Solution has gone into space, assisting in the research of T.G. Hammond of Tulane University. Dr. Hammond’s research addresses changes in gene expression in microgravity environments. Earth bound researchers study microgravity phenomena by culturing cells in rotating-wall vessels (RWVs). RWVs provide an approximation of a microgravity environment. More authentic experiments, however; can be carried out aboard spacecraft in orbit.

From Theory to Practice

RNA later Solution was used on a September 2000 space shuttle mission in which human renal cells were cultured in space. Renal cells were chosen for their relevance in heavy metal toxicity research, which is important for long, manned space flights in closed environmental systems. Cells were cultured in automated cell culture systems, and at a specified time, RNA later Solution was injected into the cell culture medium, stopping growth (and gene expression), and simultaneously preserving the cellular RNA. The cultures were then cooled to 8°C until they were returned to Earth. RNA was subsequently isolated from both the RNA later Solution-treated renal cells sent into space and a replicate sample of cells that had remained on Earth. These RNAs were then used to generate labeled cDNA for gene array analysis. Preliminary data show specific changes in gene expression in flight (0 gravity) vs. ground conditions (1 gravity).

What’s Next?

RNA later Solution has several unusual field applications to its credit. Now, space flight has been added to the ever-growing list. If space flight is possible, who knows where RNAlater Solution will go next!

Figure 1:  RNA later® Tissue Collection: RNA Stabilization Solution