Carbon-containing meteorites provide a natural sample of the extraterrestrial organic chemistry that occurred in the solar system ahead of life's origin on the Earth. Analyses of 40 years have shown the organic content of these meteorites to be materials as diverse as kerogen-like macromolecules and simpler soluble compounds such as amino acids and polyols. Many meteoritic molecules have identical counterpart in the biosphere and, in a primitive group of meteorites, represent the majority of their carbon. Most of the compounds in meteorites have isotopic compositions that date their formation to presolar environments and reveal a long and active cosmochemical evolution of the biogenic elements. Whether this evolution resumed on the Earth to foster biogenesis after exogenous delivery of meteoritic and cometary materials is not known, yet, the selective abundance of biomolecule precursors evident in some cosmic environments and the unique L-asymmetry of some meteoritic amino acids are suggestive of their possible contribution to terrestrial molecular evolution.
Meteorites undoubtedly showered the early Earth with various organic molecules, including amino acids with excesses of the l-form. Their delivery might have aided molecular evolution and the choice of the enantiomers found in living systems.
Evidence of past liquid water on the surface of Mars suggests that this world once had habitable conditions and leads to the question of life. If there was life on Mars, it would be interesting to determine if it represented a separate origin from life on Earth. To determine the biochemistry and genetics of life on Mars requires that we have access to an organism or the biological remains of one—possibly preserved in ancient permafrost. A way to determine if organic material found on Mars represents the remains of an alien biological system could be based on the observation that biological systems select certain organic molecules over others that are chemically similar (e.g., chirality in amino acids).
Organic molecules derived from life on Mars could remain in ancient permafrost. Anomalies such as the prevalence of molecules of a certain chirality would be tell-tale signs of alien life.
Martian soil is thought to be enriched with strong oxidants such as peroxides and/or iron in high oxidation states that might destroy biological materials. There is also a high flux of ultraviolet radiation at the surface of Mars. Thus, Mars may be inhospitable to life as we know it on Earth. We examined the hypothesis that if the soil of Mars contains ferrates [Fe(VI)], the strongest of the proposed oxidizing species, and also is exposed to high fluxes of UV radiation, it will be self-sterilizing.
Under ambient conditions (25°C, oxygen and water present) K2FeO4 mixed into sand mineralized some reactive organic molecules to CO2, while less reactive compounds were not degraded. Dried endospores of Bacillus subtilis incubated in a Mars surrogate soil comprised of dry silica sand containing 20% by weight K2FeO4 and under conditions similar to those now on Mars (extreme desiccation, cold, and a CO2-dominated atmosphere) were resistant to killing by the ferrate-enriched sand. Similar results were observed with permanganate. Spores in oxidant-enriched sand exposed to high fluxes of UV light were protected from the sporocidal activity of the radiation below about 5 mm depths.
Based on our data and previously published descriptions of ancient but dormant life forms on Earth, we suggest that if entities resembling bacterial endospores were produced at some point by life forms on Mars, they might still be present and viable, given appropriate germination conditions. Endospores delivered to Mars on spacecraft would possibly survive and potentially compromise life detection experiments.
After the realization of the International Space Station, human exploratory missions to Moon or Mars, i.e. beyond low Earth orbit, are widely considered as the next logical step of peaceful cooperation in space on a global scale. Besides the human desire to extend the window of habitability, human exploratory missions are driven by several aspects of science, technology, culture and economy. Mars is currently considered as a major target in the search for life beyond the Earth. Understanding the history of water on Mars appears to be one of the clues to the puzzle on the probability of life on Mars. On Earth microorganisms have flourished for more than 3.5 Ga and have developed strategies to cope with so-called extreme conditions (e.g., hot vents, permafrost, subsurface regions, rocks or salt crystals). Therefore, in search for life on Mars, microorganisms are the most likely candidates for a putative biota on Mars and the search for morphological or chemical signatures of life or its relics is one of the primary and most exciting goals of Mars exploration. The presence of humans on the surface of Mars will substantially increase this research potential, e.g., by supporting deep subsurface drilling and by allowing intellectual collection and sophisticated in situ analysis of samples of astrobiological interest. On the other hand, such long-duration missions beyond LEO will add a new dimension to human space flight, concerning the distance of travel, the radiation environment, the gravity levels, the duration of the mission, and the level of confinement and isolation the crew will be exposed to. This will raise the significance of several health issues, above all radiation protection, gravity related effects as well as psychological issues. Furthermore, the import of internal and external microorganisms inevitably accompanying any human mission to Mars, or brought purposely to Mars as part of a bioregenerative life support system needs careful consideration with regard to planetary protection issues. Therefore, before planning any human exploratory mission, the critical issues concerning human health and wellbeing as well as protection of Mars in its pristine condition need to be investigated.
Mars; Human exploratory missions; Astrobiology; Search for extraterrestrial life
The isolation of viable extremely halophilic archaea from 250-million-year-old rock salt suggests the possibility of their long-term survival under desiccation. Since halite has been found on Mars and in meteorites, haloarchaeal survival of martian surface conditions is being explored. Halococcus dombrowskii H4 DSM 14522T was exposed to UV doses over a wavelength range of 200–400 nm to simulate martian UV flux. Cells embedded in a thin layer of laboratory-grown halite were found to accumulate preferentially within fluid inclusions. Survival was assessed by staining with the LIVE/DEAD kit dyes, determining colony-forming units, and using growth tests. Halite-embedded cells showed no loss of viability after exposure to about 21 kJ/m2, and they resumed growth in liquid medium with lag phases of 12 days or more after exposure up to 148 kJ/m2. The estimated D37 (dose of 37 % survival) for Hcc. dombrowskii was ≥ 400 kJ/m2. However, exposure of cells to UV flux while in liquid culture reduced D37 by 2 orders of magnitude (to about 1 kJ/m2); similar results were obtained with Halobacterium salinarum NRC-1 and Haloarcula japonica. The absorption of incoming light of shorter wavelength by color centers resulting from defects in the halite crystal structure likely contributed to these results. Under natural conditions, haloarchaeal cells become embedded in salt upon evaporation; therefore, dispersal of potential microscopic life within small crystals, perhaps in dust, on the surface of Mars could resist damage by UV radiation.
Halococcus dombrowskii; Simulated martian UV radiation; LIVE/DEAD staining; Halite fluid inclusions; UV transmittance and reflectance; Desiccation
We have detected a concentration of boron in martian clay far in excess of that in any previously reported extra-terrestrial object. This enrichment indicates that the chemistry necessary for the formation of ribose, a key component of RNA, could have existed on Mars since the formation of early clay deposits, contemporary to the emergence of life on Earth. Given the greater similarity of Earth and Mars early in their geological history, and the extensive disruption of Earth's earliest mineralogy by plate tectonics, we suggest that the conditions for prebiotic ribose synthesis may be better understood by further Mars exploration.
Most planetary protection research has concentrated on characterizing viable bioloads on spacecraft surfaces, developing techniques for bioload reduction prior to launch, and studying the effects of simulated martian environments on microbial survival. Little research has examined the persistence of biogenic signature molecules on spacecraft materials under simulated martian surface conditions. This study examined how endogenous adenosine-5′-triphosphate (ATP) would persist on aluminum coupons under simulated martian conditions of 7.1 mbar, full-spectrum simulated martian radiation calibrated to 4 W m−2 of UV-C (200 to 280 nm), −10°C, and a Mars gas mix of CO2 (95.54%), N2 (2.7%), Ar (1.6%), O2 (0.13%), and H2O (0.03%). Cell or spore viabilities of Acinetobacter radioresistens, Bacillus pumilus, and B. subtilis were measured in minutes to hours, while high levels of endogenous ATP were recovered after exposures of up to 21 days. The dominant factor responsible for temporal reductions in viability and loss of ATP was the simulated Mars surface radiation; low pressure, low temperature, and the Mars gas composition exhibited only slight effects. The normal burst of endogenous ATP detected during spore germination in B. pumilus and B. subtilis was reduced by 1 or 2 orders of magnitude following, respectively, 8- or 30-min exposures to simulated martian conditions. The results support the conclusion that endogenous ATP will persist for time periods that are likely to extend beyond the nominal lengths of most surface missions on Mars, and planetary protection protocols prior to launch may require additional rigor to further reduce the presence and abundance of biosignature molecules on spacecraft surfaces.
The formation of the Earth as a planet was a large stochastic process in which the rapid assembly of asteroidal-to-Mars-sized bodies was followed by a more extended period of growth through collisions of these objects, facilitated by the gravitational perturbations associated with Jupiter. The Earth's inventory of water and organic molecules may have come from diverse sources, not more than 10% roughly from comets, the rest from asteroidal precursors to chondritic bodies and possibly objects near Earth's orbit for which no representative class of meteorites exists today in laboratory collections. The final assembly of the Earth included a catastrophic impact with a Mars-sized body, ejecting mantle and crustal material to form the Moon, and also devolatilizing part of the Earth. A magma ocean and steam atmosphere (possibly with silica vapour) existed briefly in this period, but terrestrial surface waters were below the critical point within 100 million years after Earth's formation, and liquid water existed continuously on the surface within a few hundred million years. Organic material delivered by comets and asteroids would have survived, in part, this violent early period, but frequent impacts of remaining debris probably prevented the continuous habitability of the Earth for one to several hundred million years. Planetary analogues to or records of this early time when life began include Io (heat flow), Titan (organic chemistry) and Venus (remnant early granites).
Hadean Earth; Earth, origin; impacts; planetology; Archean Earth
Martian regolith (unconsolidated surface material) is a potential medium for plant growth in bioregenerative life support systems during manned missions on Mars. However, hydrated magnesium sulfate mineral levels in the regolith of Mars can reach as high as 10 wt%, and would be expected to be highly inhibitory to plant growth.
Methodology and Principal Findings
Disabling ion transporters AtMRS2-10 and AtSULTR1;2, which are plasma membrane localized in peripheral root cells, is not an effective way to confer tolerance to magnesium sulfate soils. Arabidopsis mrs2-10 and sel1-10 knockout lines do not mitigate the growth inhibiting impacts of high MgSO4·7H2O concentrations observed with wildtype plants. A global approach was used to identify novel genes with potential to enhance tolerance to high MgSO4·7H2O (magnesium sulfate) stress. The early Arabidopsis root transcriptome response to elevated concentrations of magnesium sulfate was characterized in Col-0, and also between Col-0 and the mutant line cax1-1, which was confirmed to be relatively tolerant of high levels of MgSO4·7H2O in soil solution. Differentially expressed genes in Col-0 treated for 45 min. encode enzymes primarily involved in hormone metabolism, transcription factors, calcium-binding proteins, kinases, cell wall related proteins and membrane-based transporters. Over 200 genes encoding transporters were differentially expressed in Col-0 up to 180 min. of exposure, and one of the first down-regulated genes was CAX1. The importance of this early response in wildtype Arabidopsis is exemplified in the fact that only four transcripts were differentially expressed between Col-0 and cax1-1 at 180 min. after initiation of treatment.
The results provide a solid basis for the understanding of the metabolic response of plants to elevated magnesium sulfate soils; it is the first transcriptome analysis of plants in this environment. The results foster the development of Mars soil-compatible plants by showing that cax1 mutants exhibit partial tolerance to magnesium sulfate, and by elucidating a small subset (500 vs. >10,000) of candidate genes for mutation or metabolic engineering that will enhance tolerance to magnesium sulfate soils.
Spore-forming bacteria are of particular concern in the context of planetary protection because their tough endospores may withstand certain sterilization procedures as well as the harsh environments of outer space or planetary surfaces. To test their hardiness on a hypothetical mission to Mars, spores of Bacillus subtilis 168 and Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032 were exposed for 1.5 years to selected parameters of space in the experiment PROTECT during the EXPOSE-E mission on board the International Space Station. Mounted as dry layers on spacecraft-qualified aluminum coupons, the “trip to Mars” spores experienced space vacuum, cosmic and extraterrestrial solar radiation, and temperature fluctuations, whereas the “stay on Mars” spores were subjected to a simulated martian environment that included atmospheric pressure and composition, and UV and cosmic radiation. The survival of spores from both assays was determined after retrieval. It was clearly shown that solar extraterrestrial UV radiation (λ≥110 nm) as well as the martian UV spectrum (λ≥200 nm) was the most deleterious factor applied; in some samples only a few survivors were recovered from spores exposed in monolayers. Spores in multilayers survived better by several orders of magnitude. All other environmental parameters encountered by the “trip to Mars” or “stay on Mars” spores did little harm to the spores, which showed about 50% survival or more. The data demonstrate the high chance of survival of spores on a Mars mission, if protected against solar irradiation. These results will have implications for planetary protection considerations. Key Words: Planetary protection—Bacterial spores—Space experiment—Simulated Mars mission. Astrobiology 12, 445–456.
The OMEGA/Mars Express hyperspectral imager identified gypsum at several sites on Mars in 2005. These minerals constitute a direct record of past aqueous activity and are important with regard to the search of extraterrestrial life. Gale Crater was chosen as Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity's landing site because it is rich in gypsum, as are some desert soils of the Cuatro Ciénegas Basin (CCB) (Chihuahuan Desert, Mexico). The gypsum of the CCB, which is overlain by minimal carbonate deposits, was the product of magmatic activity that occurred under the Tethys Sea. To examine this Mars analogue, we retrieved gypsum-rich soil samples from two contrasting sites with different humidity in the CCB. To characterize the site, we obtained nutrient data and analyzed the genes related to the N cycle (nifH, nirS, and nirK) and the bacterial community composition by using 16S rRNA clone libraries. As expected, the soil content for almost all measured forms of carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus were higher at the more humid site than at the drier site. What was unexpected is the presence of a rich and divergent community at both sites, with higher taxonomic diversity at the humid site and almost no taxonomic overlap. Our results suggest that the gypsum-rich soils of the CCB host a unique microbial ecosystem that includes novel microbial assemblies. Key Words: Cuatro Ciénegas Basin—Gale Crater—Gypsum soil microbial diversity—Molecular ecology—Nitrogen cycle. Astrobiology 12, 699–709.
Pyrolysis-gas chromatography-mass spectrometric studies of two microorganisms, Micrococcus luteus and Bacillus subtilis var. niger, indicate that the majority of thermal fragments originate from the principal classes of bio-organic matter found in living systems such as protein and carbohydrate. Furthermore, there is a close qualitative similarity between the type of pyrolysis products found in microorganisms and the pyrolysates of other biological materials. Conversely, there is very little correlation between microbial pyrolysates and comparable pyrolysis studies of meteoritic and fossil organic matter. These observations will aid in the interpretation of a soil organic analysis experiment to be performed on the surface of Mars in 1975. The science payload of this landed mission will include a combined pyrolysis-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry instrument as well as several “direct biology experiments” which are designed to search for extraterrestrial life.
Escherichia coli and Serratia liquefaciens, two bacterial spacecraft contaminants known to replicate under low atmospheric pressures of 2.5 kPa, were tested for growth and survival under simulated Mars conditions. Environmental stresses of high salinity, low temperature, and low pressure were screened alone and in combination for effects on bacterial survival and replication, and then cells were tested in Mars analog soils under simulated Mars conditions. Survival and replication of E. coli and S. liquefaciens cells in liquid medium were evaluated for 7 days under low temperatures (5, 10, 20, or 30°C) with increasing concentrations (0, 5, 10, or 20%) of three salts (MgCl2, MgSO4, NaCl) reported to be present on the surface of Mars. Moderate to high growth rates were observed for E. coli and S. liquefaciens at 30 or 20°C and in solutions with 0 or 5% salts. In contrast, cell densities of both species generally did not increase above initial inoculum levels under the highest salt concentrations (10 and 20%) and the four temperatures tested, with the exception that moderately higher cell densities were observed for both species at 10% MgSO4 maintained at 20 or 30°C. Growth rates of E. coli and S. liquefaciens in low salt concentrations were robust under all pressures (2.5, 10, or 101.3 kPa), exhibiting a general increase of up to 2.5 orders of magnitude above the initial inoculum levels of the assays. Vegetative E. coli cells were maintained in a Mars analog soil for 7 days under simulated Mars conditions that included temperatures between 20 and −50°C for a day/night diurnal period, UVC irradiation (200 to 280 nm) at 3.6 W m−2 for daytime operations (8 h), pressures held at a constant 0.71 kPa, and a gas composition that included the top five gases found in the martian atmosphere. Cell densities of E. coli failed to increase under simulated Mars conditions, and survival was reduced 1 to 2 orders of magnitude by the interactive effects of desiccation, UV irradiation, high salinity, and low pressure (in decreasing order of importance). Results suggest that E. coli may be able to survive, but not grow, in surficial soils on Mars.
Mars is a CO2-abundant planet, whereas early Earth is thought to be also CO2-abundant. In addition, water was also discovered on Mars in 2008. From the facts and theory, we assumed that soda fountains were present on both planets, and this affected amino acid synthesis. Here, using a supercritical CO2/liquid H2O (10:1) system which mimicked crust soda fountains, we demonstrate production of amino acids from hydroxylamine (nitrogen source) and keto acids (oxylic acid sources). In this research, several amino acids were detected with an amino acid analyzer. Moreover, alanine polymers were detected with LC-MS. Our research lights up a new pathway in the study of life’s origin.
supercritical carbon oxide; amino acid; prebiotic chemistry; soda fountain; Mars
Acute-on-chronic liver failure (ACLF) is a life threatening acute decompensation of a pre-existing chronic liver disease. The artificial liver support system MARS is a new emerging therapeutic option possible to be implemented in routine care of these patients. The medical efficacy of MARS has been demonstrated in first clinical studies, but economic aspects have so far not been investigated. Objective of this study was to estimate the cost-effectiveness of MARS.
In a clinical cohort trial with a prospective follow-up of 3 years 33 ACLF-patients treated with MARS were compared to 46 controls. Survival, health-related quality of life as well as direct medical costs for in- and outpatient treatment from a health care system perspective were determined. Based on the differences in outcome and indirect costs the cost-effectiveness of MARS expressed as incremental costs per life year gained and incremental costs per QALY gained was estimated.
The average initial intervention costs for MARS were 14600 EUR per patient treated. Direct medical costs over 3 years follow up were overall 40000 EUR per patient treated with MARS respectively 12700 EUR in controls. The 3 year survival rate after MARS was 52% compared to 17% in controls. Kaplan-Meier analysis of cumulated survival probability showed a highly significant difference in favour of MARS. Incremental costs per life-year gained were 31400 EUR; incremental costs per QALY gained were 47200 EUR.
The results after 3 years follow-up of the first economic evaluation study of MARS based on empirical patient data are presented. Although high initial treatment costs for MARS occur the significantly better survival seen in this study led to reasonable costs per live year gained. Further randomized controlled trials investigating the medical efficacy and the cost-effectiveness are recommended.
One of the goals of the present Martian exploration is to search for evidence of extinct (or even extant) life. This could be redefined as a search for carbon. The carbon cycle (or, more properly, cycles) on Earth is a complex interaction among three reservoirs: the atmosphere; the hydrosphere; and the lithosphere. Superimposed on this is the biosphere, and its presence influences the fixing and release of carbon in these reservoirs over different time-scales. The overall carbon balance is kept at equilibrium on the surface by a combination of tectonic processes (which bury carbon), volcanism (which releases it) and biology (which mediates it). In contrast to Earth, Mars presently has no active tectonic system; neither does it possess a significant biosphere. However, these observations might not necessarily have held in the past. By looking at how Earth's carbon cycles have changed with time, as both the Earth's tectonic structure and a more sophisticated biology have evolved, and also by constructing a carbon cycle for Mars based on the carbon chemistry of Martian meteorites, we investigate whether or not there is evidence for a Martian biosphere.
Earth; Mars; carbon; cycle; life
The martian surface environment exhibits extremes of salinity, temperature, desiccation, and radiation that would make it difficult for terrestrial microbes to survive. Recent evidence suggests that martian soils contain high concentrations of MgSO4 minerals. Through warming of the soils, meltwater derived from subterranean ice-rich regolith may exist for an extended period of time and thus allow the propagation of terrestrial microbes and create significant bioburden at the near surface of Mars. The current report demonstrates that halotolerant bacteria from the Great Salt Plains (GSP) of Oklahoma are capable of growing at high concentrations of MgSO4 in the form of 2 M solutions of epsomite. The epsotolerance of isolates in the GSP bacterial collection was determined, with 35% growing at 2 M MgSO4. There was a complex physiological response to mixtures of MgSO4 and NaCl coupled with other environmental stressors. Growth also was measured at 1 M concentrations of other magnesium and sulfate salts. The complex responses may be partially explained by the pattern of chaotropicity observed for high-salt solutions as measured by agar gelation temperature. Select isolates could grow at the high salt concentrations and low temperatures found on Mars. Survival during repetitive freeze-thaw or drying-rewetting cycles was used as other measures of potential success on the martian surface. Our results indicate that terrestrial microbes might survive under the high-salt, low-temperature, anaerobic conditions on Mars and present significant potential for forward contamination. Stringent planetary protection requirements are needed for future life-detection missions to Mars. Key Words: Analogue—Mars—Planetary protection—Salts—Life in extreme environments. Astrobiology 12, 98–106.
Preparation for the fiftieth anniversary of human spaceflight in the
spring of 2011 provides the space faring nations with an opportunity to reflect on
past achievements as well as consider the next fifty years of human spaceflight.
The International Space Station is a unique platform for long duration life science
research that will play a critical role in preparing for future human space exploration
beyond low earth orbit. Some feel the future path back to the Moon and on to Mars
may be delayed with the current commitment of the United States to support the
development of human-rated commercial spacecraft. Others see this as a unique
opportunity to leverage the capability of the private sector in expanding access to
space exploration. This article provides an overview of the past achievements in human
spaceflight and discusses future missions over the next fifty years and the role
space medicine will play in extending the time-distance constant of human space
Human spaceflight; space medicine; career astronauts; spaceflight participants; commercial spaceflight
Matrix attachment regions (MAR) are the sites on genomic DNA that interact with the nuclear matrix. There is increasing evidence for the involvement of MAR in regulation of gene expression. The unsuitability of experimental detection of MAR for genome-wide analyses has led to the development of computational methods of detecting MAR. The MAR recognition signature (MRS) has been reported to be associated with a significant fraction of MAR in C. elegans and has also been found in MAR from a wide range of other eukaryotes. However the effectiveness of the MRS in specifically and sensitively identifying MAR remains unresolved.
Using custom software, we have mapped the occurrence of MRS across the entire C. elegans genome. We find that MRS have a distinctive chromosomal distribution, in which they appear more frequently in the gene-rich chromosome centres than in arms. Comparison to distributions of MRS estimated from chromosomal sequences randomised using mono-, di- tri- and tetra-nucleotide frequency patterns showed that, while MRS are less common in real sequence than would be expected from nucleotide content alone, they are more frequent than would be predicted from short-range nucleotide structure. In comparison to the rest of the genome, MRS frequency was elevated in 5' and 3' UTRs, and striking peaks of average MRS frequency flanked C. elegans coding sequence (CDS). Genes associated with MRS were significantly enriched for receptor activity annotations, but not for expression level or other features.
Through a genome-wide analysis of the distribution of MRS in C. elegans we have shown that they have a distinctive distribution, particularly in relation to genes. Due to their association with untranslated regions, it is possible that MRS could have a post-transcriptional role in the control of gene expression. A role for MRS in nuclear scaffold attachment is not supported by these analyses.
New aspects of synchrotron Mössbauer microscopy have been reported, including micrometer spatial resolution, forward as well as backscattering geometry, and the ability to measure samples with natural isotopic abundance, such as meteorites.
New aspects of synchrotron Mössbauer microscopy are presented. A 5 µm spatial resolution is achieved, and sub-micrometer resolution is envisioned. Two distinct and unique methods, synchrotron Mössbauer imaging and nuclear resonant incoherent X-ray imaging, are used to resolve spatial distribution of species that are chemically and magnetically distinct from one another. Proof-of-principle experiments were performed on enriched 57Fe phantoms, and on samples with natural isotopic abundance, such as meteorites.
synchrotron Mössbauer microscopy; nuclear resonant incoherent X-ray imaging; meteorite; 57Fe phantom; 5 µm resolution
Most heterotrophic bacteria assimilate CO2 in various carboxylation reactions during biosynthesis. In this study, assimilation of 14CO2 by heterotrophic bacteria was used for isotope labeling of active microorganisms in pure cultures and environmental samples. Labeled cells were visualized by microautoradiography (MAR) combined with fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) to obtain simultaneous information about activity and identity. Cultures of Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas putida assimilated sufficient 14CO2 during growth on various organic substrates to obtain positive MAR signals. The MAR signals were comparable with the traditional MAR approach based on uptake of 14C-labeled organic substrates. Experiments with E. coli showed that 14CO2 was assimilated during both fermentation and aerobic and anaerobic respiration. The new MAR approach, HetCO2-MAR, was evaluated by targeting metabolic active filamentous bacteria, including “Candidatus Microthrix parvicella” in activated sludge. “Ca. Microthrix parvicella” was able to take up oleic acid under anaerobic conditions, as shown by the traditional MAR approach with [14C]oleic acid. However, the new HetCO2-MAR approach indicated that “Ca. Microthrix parvicella,” did not significantly grow on oleic acid under anaerobic conditions with or without addition of NO2−, whereas the addition of O2 or NO3− initiated growth, as indicated by detectable 14CO2 assimilation. This is a metabolic feature that has not been described previously for filamentous bacteria. Such information could not have been derived by using the traditional MAR procedure, whereas the new HetCO2-MAR approach differentiates better between substrate uptake and substrate metabolism that result in growth. The HetCO2-MAR results were supported by stable isotope analysis of 13C-labeled phospholipid fatty acids from activated sludge incubated under aerobic and anaerobic conditions in the presence of 13CO2. In conclusion, the novel HetCO2-MAR approach expands the possibility for studies of the ecophysiology of uncultivated microorganisms.
Spore-forming microbes recovered from spacecraft surfaces and assembly facilities were exposed to simulated Martian UV irradiation. The effects of UVA (315 to 400 nm), UVA+B (280 to 400 nm), and the full UV spectrum (200 to 400 nm) on the survival of microorganisms were studied at UV intensities expected to strike the surfaces of Mars. Microbial species isolated from the surfaces of several spacecraft, including Mars Odyssey, X-2000 (avionics), and the International Space Station, and their assembly facilities were identified using 16S rRNA gene sequencing. Forty-three Bacillus spore lines were screened, and 19 isolates showed resistance to UVC irradiation (200 to 280 nm) after exposure to 1,000 J m−2 of UVC irradiation at 254 nm using a low-pressure mercury lamp. Spores of Bacillus species isolated from spacecraft-associated surfaces were more resistant than a standard dosimetric strain, Bacillus subtilis 168. In addition, the exposure time required for UVA+B irradiation to reduce the viable spore numbers by 90% was 35-fold longer than the exposure time required for the full UV spectrum to do this, confirming that UVC is the primary biocidal bandwidth. Among the Bacillus species tested, spores of a Bacillus pumilus strain showed the greatest resistance to all three UV bandwidths, as well as the total spectrum. The resistance to simulated Mars UV irradiation was strain specific; B. pumilus SAFR-032 exhibited greater resistance than all other strains tested. The isolation of organisms like B. pumilus SAFR-032 and the greater survival of this organism (sixfold) than of the standard dosimetric strains should be considered when the sanitation capabilities of UV irradiation are determined.
In the past decade, several principal stratification–based statistical methods have been developed for testing and estimation of a treatment effect on an outcome measured after a postrandomization event. Two examples are the evaluation of the effect of a cancer treatment on quality of life in subjects who remain alive and the evaluation of the effect of an HIV vaccine on viral load in subjects who acquire HIV infection. However, in general the developed methods have not addressed the issue of missing outcome data, and hence their validity relies on a missing completely at random (MCAR) assumption. Because in many applications the MCAR assumption is untenable, while a missing at random (MAR) assumption is defensible, we extend the semiparametric likelihood sensitivity analysis approach of Gilbert and others (2003) and Jemiai and Rotnitzky (2005) to allow the outcome to be MAR. We combine these methods with the robust likelihood–based method of Little and An (2004) for handling MAR data to provide semiparametric estimation of the average causal effect of treatment on the outcome. The new method, which does not require a monotonicity assumption, is evaluated in a simulation study and is applied to data from the first HIV vaccine efficacy trial.
Causal inference; HIV vaccine trial; Missing at random; Posttreatment selection bias; Principal stratification; Sensitivity analysis
Bioregenerative life support systems may be necessary for long-term space missions due to the high cost of lifting supplies and equipment into orbit. In this study, we investigated two biological wastewater treatment reactors designed to recover potable water for a spacefaring crew being tested at Johnson Space Center. The experiment (Lunar-Mars Life Support Test Project—Phase III) consisted of four crew members confined in a test chamber for 91 days. In order to recycle all water during the experiment, an immobilized cell bioreactor (ICB) was employed for organic carbon removal and a trickling filter bioreactor (TFB) was utilized for ammonia removal, followed by physical-chemical treatment. In this study, the spatial distribution of various microorganisms within each bioreactor was analyzed by using biofilm samples taken from four locations in the ICB and three locations in the TFB. Three target genes were used for characterization of bacteria: the 16S rRNA gene for the total bacterial community, the ammonia monooxygenase (amoA) gene for ammonia-oxidizing bacteria, and the nitrous oxide reductase (nosZ) gene for denitrifying bacteria. A combination of terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP), sequence, and phylogenetic analyses indicated that the microbial community composition in the ICB and the TFB consisted mainly of Proteobacteria, low-G+C gram-positive bacteria, and a Cytophaga-Flexibacter-Bacteroides group. Fifty-seven novel 16S rRNA genes, 8 novel amoA genes, and 12 new nosZ genes were identified in this study. Temporal shifts in the species composition of total bacteria in both the ICB and the TFB and ammonia-oxidizing and denitrifying bacteria in the TFB were also detected when the biofilms were compared with the inocula after 91 days. This result suggests that specific microbial populations were either brought in by the crew or enriched in the reactors during the course of operation.
The thermo-mechanical properties of planetary surface and subsurface layers control to a high extent in which way a body interacts with its environment, in particular how it responds to solar irradiation and how it interacts with a potentially existing atmosphere. Furthermore, if the natural temperature profile over a certain depth can be measured in situ, this gives important information about the heat flux from the interior and thus about the thermal evolution of the body. Therefore, in most of the recent and planned planetary lander missions experiment packages for determining thermo-mechanical properties are part of the payload. Examples are the experiment MUPUS on Rosetta's comet lander Philae, the TECP instrument aboard NASA's Mars polar lander Phoenix, and the mole-type instrument HP3 currently developed for use on upcoming lunar and Mars missions. In this review we describe several methods applied for measuring thermal conductivity and heat flux and discuss the particular difficulties faced when these properties have to be measured in a low pressure and low temperature environment. We point out the abilities and disadvantages of the different instruments and outline the evaluation procedures necessary to extract reliable thermal conductivity and heat flux data from in situ measurements.
► Numerical simulation of the thermal history of a planetary body. ► Development of robust thermal conductivity sensors for planetary applications. ► Measurement of the global heat flow of a planet or small planetary body.
Thermal conductivity; Planetary surfaces; Lander missions