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1.  Investigating the Effects of Simulated Martian Ultraviolet Radiation on Halococcus dombrowskii and Other Extremely Halophilic Archaebacteria 
Astrobiology  2009;9(1):104-112.
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.
PMCID: PMC3182532  PMID: 19215203
Halococcus dombrowskii; Simulated martian UV radiation; LIVE/DEAD staining; Halite fluid inclusions; UV transmittance and reflectance; Desiccation
2.  Identification of polyhydroxyalkanoates in Halococcus and other haloarchaeal species 
Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) are accumulated in many prokaryotes. Several members of the Halobacteriaceae produce poly-3-hydroxybutyrate (PHB), but it is not known if this is a general property of the family. We evaluated identification methods for PHAs with 20 haloarchaeal species, three of them isolates from Permian salt. Staining with Sudan Black B, Nile Blue A, or Nile Red was applied to screen for the presence of PHAs. Transmission electron microscopy and 1H-nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy were used for visualization of PHB granules and chemical confirmation of PHAs in cell extracts, respectively. We report for the first time the production of PHAs by Halococcus sp. (Halococcus morrhuae DSM 1307T, Halococcus saccharolyticus DSM 5350T, Halococcus salifodinae DSM 8989T, Halococcus dombrowskii DSM 14522T, Halococcus hamelinensis JCM 12892T, Halococcus qingdaonensis JCM 13587T), Halorubrum sp. (Hrr. coriense DSM 10284T, Halorubrum chaoviator DSM 19316T, Hrr. chaoviator strains NaxosII and AUS-1), haloalkaliphiles (Natronobacterium gregoryi NCMB 2189T, Natronococcus occultus DSM 3396T) and Halobacterium noricense DSM 9758T. No PHB was detected in Halobacterium salinarum NRC-1 ATCC 700922, Hbt. salinarum R1 and Haloferax volcanii DSM 3757T. Most species synthesized PHAs when growing in synthetic as well as in complex medium. The polyesters were generally composed of PHB and poly-ß-hydroxybutyrate-co-3-hydroxyvalerate (PHBV). Available genomic data suggest the absence of PHA synthesis in some haloarchaea and in all other Euryarchaeota and Crenarchaeota. Homologies between haloarchaeal and bacterial PHA synthesizing enzymes had indicated to some authors probable horizontal gene transfer, which, considering the data obtained in this study, may have occurred already before Permian times.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00253-010-2611-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC2895300  PMID: 20437233
Polyhydroxybutyrate; Haloarchaea; Halococcus; Halobacterium; Haloalkaliphile
3.  Space Microbiology 
Summary: The responses of microorganisms (viruses, bacterial cells, bacterial and fungal spores, and lichens) to selected factors of space (microgravity, galactic cosmic radiation, solar UV radiation, and space vacuum) were determined in space and laboratory simulation experiments. In general, microorganisms tend to thrive in the space flight environment in terms of enhanced growth parameters and a demonstrated ability to proliferate in the presence of normally inhibitory levels of antibiotics. The mechanisms responsible for the observed biological responses, however, are not yet fully understood. A hypothesized interaction of microgravity with radiation-induced DNA repair processes was experimentally refuted. The survival of microorganisms in outer space was investigated to tackle questions on the upper boundary of the biosphere and on the likelihood of interplanetary transport of microorganisms. It was found that extraterrestrial solar UV radiation was the most deleterious factor of space. Among all organisms tested, only lichens (Rhizocarpon geographicum and Xanthoria elegans) maintained full viability after 2 weeks in outer space, whereas all other test systems were inactivated by orders of magnitude. Using optical filters and spores of Bacillus subtilis as a biological UV dosimeter, it was found that the current ozone layer reduces the biological effectiveness of solar UV by 3 orders of magnitude. If shielded against solar UV, spores of B. subtilis were capable of surviving in space for up to 6 years, especially if embedded in clay or meteorite powder (artificial meteorites). The data support the likelihood of interplanetary transfer of microorganisms within meteorites, the so-called lithopanspermia hypothesis.
PMCID: PMC2832349  PMID: 20197502
4.  Effects of Simulated Microgravity on Primary Human NK Cells 
Astrobiology  2013;13(8):703-714.
The deleterious effects of microgravity on lymphocytes have been demonstrated in previous studies. However, research on the effects of microgravity on human natural killer (NK) cells remains exceedingly limited. In this study, we demonstrated that NK cell cytotoxicity was significantly decreased under simulated microgravity (SMG) conditions (p<0.05). Several processes, including apoptosis, receptor expression, and cytokine secretion, were investigated in human NK cells under SMG. We observed decreased cytotoxicity, concurrent with increased apoptosis and necrosis, in NK cells after exposure to SMG (p<0.05). Additionally, interferon (IFN)-γ and perforin expression decreased significantly, and the expression of granzyme-B was only slightly reduced. Meanwhile, SMG selectively inhibited the expression of certain surface receptors on NK cells. Specifically, the expression of NKG2A and NKG2D were significantly downregulated under SMG, but the expression of NKp30 and NKp44 was not affected. We also found that interleukin (IL)–15 alone or in combination with IL-12 could counteract the inhibition of NK cell cytotoxicity under SMG. Our findings indicate that human NK cells were sensitive to SMG, as reflected by their decreased cytotoxicity. Factors such as increased early apoptosis and late apoptosis/necrosis and the decreased expression of INF-γ, cytolytic proteins, and cell surface receptors may be responsible for the loss of cytotoxicity in human NK cells under SMG. A combination of IL-12 and IL-15 may be useful as a therapeutic strategy for overcoming the effects of microgravity on human NK cells during long space missions. Key Words: Simulated microgravity (SMG)—Natural killer (NK) cells—Cytotoxicity. Astrobiology 13, 703–714.
PMCID: PMC3746215  PMID: 23919749
5.  Effects of simulated microgravity by RCCS on the biological features of Candida albicans  
During the spaceflight, a wide variety of microorganisms may be carried to the outer space by astronauts and aviation component. The yeast Candida albicans is an important opportunistic pathogen responsible for a variety of cutaneous and systemic human infections in human body, and the yeast cell itself could be affected by various stressful environmental factors including the weightless environment. We evaluated the effects of simulated microgravity on biological features of Candida albicans using the rotary cell culture system (RCCS). The growth curves of Candida albicans cultured in RCCS were recorded by spectrophotometer, the morphogenic switches were observed by optical microscope, and the viability of cells exposed to the various concentrations of fluconazole solution was assayed by flow cytometry at 7th, 14th and 21st day of experiment. The results showed that Candida albicans SC5314 under modeled microgravity were manifested as the growth curves leftward-shifted, lag phase shortened, along with logarithmic phase and stationary phase forwarded (P < 0.05). The simulated microgravity increased the growth rate and mycelia formation of Candida albicans. A statistically significant decrease in viability was detected in cells cultured for 7 d, 14 d and 21 d in group of simulated microgravity compared with the control group (P < 0.05). The increase of exposure time to simulate microgravity resulted in the decrease of viability of cells accordingly in same drug concentration compared with the control group. The study demonstrated that the three weeks’ simulated microgravity in RCCS had a noticeable affect on the growth status of mycelia and spores and the morphogenic switches of Candida albicans, meanwhile, the yeast cells under simulated microgravity showed an increased antifungal susceptibility to fluconazole.
PMCID: PMC4128989  PMID: 25120754
Simulated microgravity; Candida albicans; fluconazole; drug susceptibility
6.  Increased Sensitivity of DNA Damage Response-Deficient Cells to Stimulated Microgravity-Induced DNA Lesions 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(4):e0125236.
Microgravity is a major stress factor that astronauts have to face in space. In the past, the effects of microgravity on genomic DNA damage were studied, and it seems that the effect on genomic DNA depends on cell types and the length of exposure time to microgravity or simulated microgravity (SMG). In this study we used mouse embryonic stem (MES) and mouse embryonic fibroblast (MEF) cells to assess the effects of SMG on DNA lesions. To acquire the insight into potential mechanisms by which cells resist and/or adapt to SMG, we also included Rad9-deleted MES and Mdc1-deleted MEF cells in addition to wild type cells in this study. We observed significant SMG-induced DNA double strand breaks (DSBs) in Rad9-/- MES and Mdc1-/- MEF cells but not in their corresponding wild type cells. A similar pattern of DNA single strand break or modifications was also observed in Rad9-/- MES. As the exposure to SMG was prolonged, Rad9-/- MES cells adapted to the SMG disturbance by reducing the induced DNA lesions. The induced DNA lesions in Rad9-/- MES were due to SMG-induced reactive oxygen species (ROS). Interestingly, Mdc1-/- MEF cells were only partially adapted to the SMG disturbance. That is, the induced DNA lesions were reduced over time, but did not return to the control level while ROS returned to a control level. In addition, ROS was only partially responsible for the induced DNA lesions in Mdc1-/- MEF cells. Taken together, these data suggest that SMG is a weak genomic DNA stress and can aggravate genomic instability in cells with DNA damage response (DDR) defects.
PMCID: PMC4411073  PMID: 25915950
7.  Propionyl Coenzyme A (Propionyl-CoA) Carboxylase in Haloferax mediterranei: Indispensability for Propionyl-CoA Assimilation and Impacts on Global Metabolism 
Propionyl coenzyme A (propionyl-CoA) is an important intermediate during the biosynthesis and catabolism of intracellular carbon storage of poly(3-hydroxybutyrate-co-3-hydroxyvalerate) (PHBV) in haloarchaea. However, the haloarchaeal propionyl-CoA carboxylase (PCC) and its physiological significance remain unclear. In this study, we identified a PCC that catalyzed propionyl-CoA carboxylation with an acetyl-CoA carboxylation side activity in Haloferax mediterranei. Gene knockout/complementation demonstrated that the PCC enzyme consisted of a fusion protein of a biotin carboxylase and a biotin-carboxyl carrier protein (PccA [HFX_2490]), a carboxyltransferase component (PccB [HFX_2478]), and an essential small subunit (PccX [HFX_2479]). Knockout of pccBX led to an inability to utilize propionate and a higher intracellular propionyl-CoA level, indicating that the PCC enzyme is indispensable for propionyl-CoA utilization. Interestingly, H. mediterranei DBX (pccBX-deleted strain) displayed multiple phenotypic changes, including retarded cell growth, decreased glucose consumption, impaired PHBV biosynthesis, and wrinkled cells. A propionyl-CoA concentration equivalent to the concentration that accumulated in DBX cells was demonstrated to inhibit succinyl-CoA synthetase of the tricarboxylic acid cycle in vitro. Genome-wide microarray analysis showed that many genes for glycolysis, pyruvate oxidation, PHBV accumulation, electron transport, and stress responses were affected in DBX. This study not only identified the haloarchaeal PCC for the metabolism of propionyl-CoA, an important intermediate in haloarchaea, but also demonstrated that impaired propionyl-CoA metabolism affected global metabolism in H. mediterranei.
PMCID: PMC4277572  PMID: 25398867
8.  Nitrogen metabolism in haloarchaea 
Saline Systems  2008;4:9.
The nitrogen cycle (N-cycle), principally supported by prokaryotes, involves different redox reactions mainly focused on assimilatory purposes or respiratory processes for energy conservation. As the N-cycle has important environmental implications, this biogeochemical cycle has become a major research topic during the last few years. However, although N-cycle metabolic pathways have been studied extensively in Bacteria or Eukarya, relatively little is known in the Archaea. Halophilic Archaea are the predominant microorganisms in hot and hypersaline environments such as salted lakes, hot springs or salted ponds. Consequently, the denitrifying haloarchaea that sustain the nitrogen cycle under these conditions have emerged as an important target for research aimed at understanding microbial life in these extreme environments.
The haloarchaeon Haloferax mediterranei was isolated 20 years ago from Santa Pola salted ponds (Alicante, Spain). It was described as a denitrifier and it is also able to grow using NO3-, NO2- or NH4+ as inorganic nitrogen sources. This review summarizes the advances that have been made in understanding the N-cycle in halophilic archaea using Hfx mediterranei as a haloarchaeal model. The results obtained show that this microorganism could be very attractive for bioremediation applications in those areas where high salt, nitrate and nitrite concentrations are found in ground waters and soils.
PMCID: PMC2483277  PMID: 18593475
9.  Polyploidy in haloarchaea: advantages for growth and survival 
The investigated haloarchaeal species, Halobacterium salinarum, Haloferax mediterranei, and H. volcanii, have all been shown to be polyploid. They contain several replicons that have independent copy number regulation, and most have a higher copy number during exponential growth phase than in stationary phase. The possible evolutionary advantages of polyploidy for haloarchaea, most of which have experimental support for at least one species, are discussed. These advantages include a low mutation rate and high resistance toward X-ray irradiation and desiccation, which depend on homologous recombination. For H. volcanii, it has been shown that gene conversion operates in the absence of selection, which leads to the equalization of genome copies. On the other hand, selective forces might lead to heterozygous cells, which have been verified in the laboratory. Additional advantages of polyploidy are survival over geological times in halite deposits as well as at extreme conditions on earth and at simulated Mars conditions. Recently, it was found that H. volcanii uses genomic DNA as genetic material and as a storage polymer for phosphate. In the absence of phosphate, H. volcanii dramatically decreases its genome copy number, thereby enabling cell multiplication, but diminishing the genetic advantages of polyploidy. Stable storage of phosphate is proposed as an alternative driving force for the emergence of DNA in early evolution. Several additional potential advantages of polyploidy are discussed that have not been addressed experimentally for haloarchaea. An outlook summarizes selected current trends and possible future developments.
PMCID: PMC4056108  PMID: 24982654
Haloferax volcanii; archaea; polyploidy; gene conversion; desiccation; survival
10.  Role and Regulation of σs in General Resistance Conferred by Low-Shear Simulated Microgravity in Escherichia coli 
Journal of Bacteriology  2004;186(24):8207-8212.
Life on Earth evolved in the presence of gravity, and thus it is of interest from the perspective of space exploration to determine if diminished gravity affects biological processes. Cultivation of Escherichia coli under low-shear simulated microgravity (SMG) conditions resulted in enhanced stress resistance in both exponential- and stationary-phase cells, making the latter superresistant. Given that microgravity of space and SMG also compromise human immune response, this phenomenon constitutes a potential threat to astronauts. As low-shear environments are encountered by pathogens on Earth as well, SMG-conferred resistance is also relevant to controlling infectious disease on this planet. The SMG effect resembles the general stress response on Earth, which makes bacteria resistant to multiple stresses; this response is σs dependent, irrespective of the growth phase. However, SMG-induced increased resistance was dependent on σs only in stationary phase, being independent of this sigma factor in exponential phase. σs concentration was some 30% lower in exponential-phase SMG cells than in normal gravity cells but was twofold higher in stationary-phase SMG cells. While SMG affected σs synthesis at all levels of control, the main reasons for the differential effect of this gravity condition on σs levels were that it rendered the sigma protein less stable in exponential phase and increased rpoS mRNA translational efficiency. Since σs regulatory processes are influenced by mRNA and protein-folding patterns, the data suggest that SMG may affect these configurations.
PMCID: PMC532419  PMID: 15576768
11.  The effects of extremes of pH on the growth and transcriptomic profiles of three haloarchaea 
F1000Research  2014;3:168.
The halophilic archaea (haloarchaea) live in saline environments, which are found across the globe.  In addition to salinity, these niches can be quite dynamic and experience extreme conditions such as low oxygen content, radiation (gamma and UV), pH and temperature.  However, of all the naturally occurring stresses faced by the haloarchaea, only one, pH, has not been previously investigated in regard to the changes induced in the transcriptome. Therefore, we endeavored to determine the responses in three haloarchaea: Halorubrum lacusprofundi (Hla), Haloferax volcanii (Hvo), and Halobacterium sp. NRC-1 (NRC-1) to growth under acidic and alkaline pH. Our observations showed that the transcriptomes of Hvo and NRC-1 regulated stress, motility, and ABC transporters in a similar manner, which is in line with previous reports from other prokaryotes when grown in an acidic environment.  However, the pattern for Hla was more species specific. For alkaline stress, all three haloarchaea responded in a manner similar to well-studied archaea and bacteria showing the haloarchaeal response was general to prokaryotes. Additionally, we performed an analysis on the changes in the transcriptomes of the three haloarchaea when shifting from one pH extreme to the other. The results showed that the transcriptomes of all three haloarchaea respond more similarly when moving from alkaline to acidic conditions compared to a shift in the opposite direction. Interestingly, our studies also showed that individual genes of multiple paralogous gene families ( tbp, tfb, orc/ cdc6, etc.) found in the haloarchaea were regulated under specific stresses thereby providing evidence that they modulate the response to various environmental stresses. The studies described here are the first to catalog the changes in the haloarchaeal transcriptomes under growth in extreme pH and help us understand how life is able to thrive under all conditions present on Earth and, if present, on extraterrestrial bodies as well.
PMCID: PMC4176423  PMID: 25285207
12.  Enhancement of Osteogenic Differentiation and Proliferation in Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells by a Modified Low Intensity Ultrasound Stimulation under Simulated Microgravity 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e73914.
Adult stem cells can differentiate into multiple lineages depending on their exposure to differing biochemical and biomechanical inductive factors. Lack of mechanical signals due to disuse can inhibit osteogenesis and induce adipogenesis of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). Long-term bed rest due to both brain/spinal cord injury and space travel can lead to disuse osteoporosis that is in part caused by a reduced number of osteoblasts. Thus, it is essential to provide proper mechanical stimulation for cellular viability and osteogenesis, particularly under disuse conditions. The objective of this study was to examine the effects of low intensity pulsed ultrasound (LIPUS) on the osteogenic differentiation of adipose-derived human stem cells (Ad-hMSC) in simulated microgravity conditions. Cells were cultured in a 1D clinostat to simulate microgravity (SMG) and treated with LIPUS at 30mW/cm2 for 20 min/day. It was hypothesized that the application of LIPUS to SMG cultures would restore osteogenesis in Ad-hMSCs. The results showed significant increases in ALP, OSX, RANKL, RUNX2, and decreases in OPG in LIPUS treated SMG cultures of Ad-MSC compared to non-treated cultures. LIPUS also restored OSX, RUNX2 and RANKL expression in osteoblast cells. SMG significantly reduced ALP positive cells by 70% (p<0.01) and ALP activity by 22% (p<0.01), while LIPUS treatment restored ALP positive cell number and activity to equivalence with normal gravity controls. Extracellular matrix collagen and mineralization was assessed by Sirius red and Alizarin red staining, respectively. SMG cultures showed little or no collagen or mineralization, but LIPUS treatment restored collagen content to 50% (p<0.001) and mineralization by 45% (p<0.001) in LIPUS treated-SMG cultures relative to SMG-only cultures. The data suggest that LIPUS treatment can restore normal osteogenic differentiation of MSCs from disuse by daily short duration stimulation.
PMCID: PMC3772078  PMID: 24069248
13.  Characterizing the Effects of VPA, VC and RCCS on Rabbit Keratocytes onto Decellularized Bovine Cornea 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e50114.
To investigate the morphological and growth characteristics of rabbit keratocytes when cultured on decellularized cornea under simulate microgravity (SMG) rotary cell culture system (RCCS) and static culture or in plastic culture supplemented with small molecules of valproic acid (VPA) and vitamin C (VC). Bovine corneas were firstly decellularized with Triton X-100 and NH4OH and through short-term freezing process. Then cell count kit-8 (CCK-8) and flow cytometry were used to test the effects of VPA and VC on the proliferation, cell cycle and apoptosis of rabbit keratocytes. Hematoxylin-eosin (H&E) staining and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) imaging showed that cells were eliminated in the decellularized bovine corneas. The proliferation of cultured keratocytes was promoted by VPA and VC in the cell proliferation assay. VPA and VC moderately decreased the number of apoptotic cells and obviously promoted cell-cycle entrance of keratocytes. Rabbit keratocytes in plastic displayed spindle shape and rare interconnected with or without VPA and VC. Cells revealed dendritic morphology and reticular cellular connections when cultured on the carriers of decellularized corneas supplemented with VPA and VC even in the presence of 10% fetal bovine serum (FBS). When cultured in RCCS supplemented with VPA, VC and 10% FBS, keratocytes displayed round shape with many prominences and were more prone to grow into the pores of carriers with aggregation. Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) analysis proved that the keratocytes cultured on decellularized bovine cornea under SMG with VPA and VC expressed keratocan and lumican. Keratocytes cultured on plastic expressed lumican but not keratocan. Immunofluorescence identification revealed that cells in all groups were positively immunostained for vimentin. Keratocytes on decellularized bovine cornea under SMG or in static culture were positively immunostained for keratocan and lumican. Thus, we reasonably made a conclusion that the combination of VPA, VC, RCCS and decellularized corneal carriers provide a good condition for keratocytes to well grow. Keratocytes can be manipulated to be aggregates or physiological morphological growth in vitro, which are important for the research of corneal stem cells and corneal tissue engineering.
PMCID: PMC3510233  PMID: 23209652
14.  Simulated microgravity affects ciprofloxacin susceptibility and expression of acrAB-tolC genes in E. coli ATCC25922 
As a representative fluoroquinolone antibacterial, ciprofloxacin is frequently used to treat infections caused by bacteria such as E. coli. It is much meaningful to explore ciprofloxacin susceptibility and investigate a possible mechanism of drug susceptibility changes in E. coli ATCC25922 exposed to the environmental stress of simulated microgravity. The subculture of E. coli lasted for 7 days under simulated microgravity conditions (SMG) and normal microgravity (NG) conditions. On the 8th day, the cultures were divided into three groups: (1) NG group (continuous NG cultures); (2) SMG group (continuous SMG cultures); (3) SMCNG group (simulated microgravity change into normal gravity cultures). Ciprofloxacin (a final concentration of 0.125 μg/ml) sensitivity and expression of acrAB-tolC genes were detected in E. coli cells. The count and percentage of viable cells in the SMG cultures bacteria exposed to ciprofloxacin were higher than that in NG cultures and reduced to the levels of NG group when they were subcultivated from SMG to NG. The expressions of efflux pump genes (acrA, acrB and tolC) were upregulated in SMG culture and downregulated to the levels of NG group when they were subcultivated from SMG to NG. Susceptibility to ciprofloxacin and expression of acrAB-tolC genes in E. coli could be reversibly affected by SMG conditions. Over expression of efflux pump genes acrAB-tolC perhaps played an important role in decreased CIP susceptibility under SMG.
PMCID: PMC4555688  PMID: 26339360
Simulated microgravity; E. coli; ciprofloxacin; drug susceptibility; acrAB-tolC genes
15.  The effect of low shear force on the virulence potential of Yersinia pestis: new aspects that space-like growth conditions and the final frontier can teach us about a formidable pathogen 
Manned space exploration has created a need to evaluate the effects of space-like stress (SLS) on pathogenic and opportunistic microbes. Interestingly, several Gram-negative enteric pathogens, e.g., Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium, have revealed a transient hyper-virulent phenotype following simulated microgravity (SMG) or actual space flight exposures. We have explored the virulence potential of Yersinia pestis KIM/D27 (YP) following exposure to mechanical low shear forces associated with SMG. Our experimental results demonstrated that SMG-grown YP was decreased in its induced HeLa cell cytotoxicity, suggesting that SMG somehow compromises T3SS functions. This was confirmed by an actual reduced amount of effector protein production and secretion through the T3SS injectisome. Also, SMG-grown YP proliferated less than their NG-grown counterparts did during an 8-h macrophage infection. Presently, we are evaluating the influence of SMG on various KIM/D27 mutant strains to further understanding of our initial phenomenology described above. Taken together, characterizing YP grown under the low shear forces of SMG can provide new insights into its pathogenesis and potentially uncover new targets that could be exploited for the development of novel antimicrobials as well as potential live-attenuated vaccines.
PMCID: PMC3417468  PMID: 22919696
simulated microgravity; Yersinia pestis; type three secretion system; high aspect ratio vessel; low shear forces
16.  Haloarchaeal-Type β-Ketothiolases Involved in Poly(3-Hydroxybutyrate-co-3-Hydroxyvalerate) Synthesis in Haloferax mediterranei 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2013;79(17):5104-5111.
The key enzymes for poly(3-hydroxybutyrate-co-3-hydroxyvalerate) (PHBV) biosynthesis in haloarchaea have been identified except the β-ketothiolase(s), which condense two acetyl coenzyme A (acetyl-CoA) molecules to acetoacetyl-CoA, or one acetyl-CoA and one propionyl-CoA to 3-ketovaleryl-CoA. Whole-genome analysis has revealed eight potential β-ketothiolase genes in the haloarchaeon Haloferax mediterranei, among which the PHBV-specific BktB and PhaA were identified by gene knockout and complementation analysis. Unlike all known bacterial counterparts encoded by a single gene, the haloarchaeal PhaA that was involved in acetoacetyl-CoA generation, was composed of two different types of subunits (PhaAα and PhaAβ) and encoded by the cotranscribed HFX_1023 (phaAα) and HFX_1022 (phaAβ) genes. Similarly, the BktB that was involved in generation of acetoacetyl-CoA and 3-ketovaleryl-CoA, was also composed of two different types of subunits (BktBα and BktBβ) and encoded by cotranscribed HFX_6004 (bktBα) and HFX_6003 (bktBβ). BktBα and PhaAα were the catalytic subunits and determined substrate specificities of BktB and PhaA, respectively. Their catalytic triad “Ser-His-His” was distinct from the bacterial “Cys-His-Cys.” BktBβ and PhaAβ both contained an oligosaccharide-binding fold domain, which was essential for the β-ketothiolase activity. Interestingly, BktBβ and PhaAβ were functionally interchangeable, although PhaAβ preferred functioning with PhaAα. In addition, BktB showed biotechnological potential for the production of PHBV with the desired 3-hydroxyvalerate fraction in haloarchaea. This is the first report of the haloarchaeal type of PHBV-specific β-ketothiolases, which are distinct from their bacterial counterparts in both subunit composition and catalytic residues.
PMCID: PMC3753943  PMID: 23793631
17.  Carotenoids from Haloarchaea and Their Potential in Biotechnology 
Marine Drugs  2015;13(9):5508-5532.
The production of pigments by halophilic archaea has been analysed during the last half a century. The main reasons that sustains this research are: (i) many haloarchaeal species possess high carotenoids production availability; (ii) downstream processes related to carotenoid isolation from haloarchaea is relatively quick, easy and cheap; (iii) carotenoids production by haloarchaea can be improved by genetic modification or even by modifying several cultivation aspects such as nutrition, growth pH, temperature, etc.; (iv) carotenoids are needed to support plant and animal life and human well-being; and (v) carotenoids are compounds highly demanded by pharmaceutical, cosmetic and food markets. Several studies about carotenoid production by haloarchaea have been reported so far, most of them focused on pigments isolation or carotenoids production under different culture conditions. However, the understanding of carotenoid metabolism, regulation, and roles of carotenoid derivatives in this group of extreme microorganisms remains mostly unrevealed. The uses of those haloarchaeal pigments have also been poorly explored. This work summarises what has been described so far about carotenoids production by haloarchaea and their potential uses in biotechnology and biomedicine. In particular, new scientific evidence of improved carotenoid production by one of the better known haloarchaeon (Haloferax mediterranei) is also discussed.
PMCID: PMC4584337  PMID: 26308012
isoprenoid; carotenoids; bacterioruberin; haloarchaea; red and orange pigments
18.  Towards Glycoengineering in Archaea: Replacement of Haloferax volcanii AglD with Homologous Glycosyltransferases from Other Halophilic Archaea ▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2010;76(17):5684-5692.
Like eukarya and bacteria, archaea also perform N-glycosylation. However, the N-linked glycans of archaeal glycoproteins present a variety not seen elsewhere. Archaea accordingly rely on N-glycosylation pathways likely involving a broad range of species-specific enzymes. To harness the enormous applied potential of such diversity for the generation of glycoproteins bearing tailored N-linked glycans, the development of an appropriate archaeal glycoengineering platform is required. With a sequenced genome, a relatively well-defined N-glycosylation pathway, and molecular tools for gene manipulation, the haloarchaeon Haloferax volcanii (Hfx. volcanii) represents a promising candidate. Accordingly, cells lacking AglD, a glycosyltransferase involved in adding the final hexose of a pentasaccharide N-linked to the surface (S)-layer glycoprotein, were transformed to express AglD homologues from other haloarchaea. The introduction of nonnative versions of AglD led to the appearance of an S-layer glycoprotein similar to the protein from the native strain. Indeed, mass spectrometry confirmed that AglD and its homologues introduce the final hexose to the N-linked S-layer glycoprotein pentasaccharide. Heterologously expressed haloarchaeal AglD homologues contributed to N-glycosylation in Hfx. volcanii despite an apparent lack of AglD function in those haloarchaea from where the introduced homologues came. For example, although functional in Hfx. volcanii, no transcription of the Halobacterium salinarum aglD homologue, OE1482, was detected in cells of the native host grown under various conditions. Thus, at least one AglD homologue works more readily in Hfx. volcanii than in the native host. These results warrant the continued assessment of Hfx. volcanii as a glycosylation “workshop.”
PMCID: PMC2935037  PMID: 20601508
19.  The simulated microgravity enhances multipotential differentiation capacity of bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells 
Cytotechnology  2013;66(1):119-131.
Multi-differentiation capability is an essential characteristic of bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (BMSCs). Method on obtaining higher-quality stem cells with an improved differentiation potential has gained significant attention for the treatment of clinical diseases and developmental biology. In our study, we investigated the multipotential differentiation capacity of BMSCs under simulated microgravity (SMG) condition. F-actin staining found that cytoskeleton took on a time-dependent change under SMG condition, which caused spindle to round morphological change of the cultured cells. Quantitative PCR and Western Blotting showed the pluripotency marker OCT4 was up-regulated in the SMG condition especially after SMG of 72 h, which we observed would be the most appropriate SMG duration for enhancing pluripotency of BMSCs. After dividing BMSCs into normal gravity (NG) group and SMG group, we induced them respectively in endothelium oriented, adipogenic and neuronal induction media. Immunostaining and Western Blotting found that endothelium oriented differentiated BMSCs expressed higher VWF and CD31 in the SMG group than in the NG group. The neuron-like cells derived from BMSCs in the SMG group also expressed higher level of MAP2 and NF-H. Furthermore, the quantity of induced adipocytes increased in the SMG group compared to the NG group shown by Oil Red O staining, The expression of PPARγ2 increased significantly under SMG condition. Therefore, we demonstrated that SMG could promote BMSCs to differentiate into many kinds of cells and predicted that enhanced multi-potential differentiation capacity response in BMSCs following SMG might be relevant to the changes of cytoskeleton and the stem cell marker OCT4.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10616-013-9544-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3886541  PMID: 23579245
Simulated microgravity; Bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells; Pluripotency; Differentiation; OCT4
20.  Simulated Microgravity Compromises Mouse Oocyte Maturation by Disrupting Meiotic Spindle Organization and Inducing Cytoplasmic Blebbing 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(7):e22214.
In the present study, we discovered that mouse oocyte maturation was inhibited by simulated microgravity via disturbing spindle organization. We cultured mouse oocytes under microgravity condition simulated by NASA's rotary cell culture system, examined the maturation rate and observed the spindle morphology (organization of cytoskeleton) during the mouse oocytes meiotic maturation. While the rate of germinal vesicle breakdown did not differ between 1 g gravity and simulated microgravity, rate of oocyte maturation decreased significantly in simulated microgravity. The rate of maturation was 8.94% in simulated microgravity and was 73.0% in 1 g gravity. The results show that the maturation of mouse oocytes in vitro was inhibited by the simulated microgravity. The spindle morphology observation shows that the microtubules and chromosomes can not form a complete spindle during oocyte meiotic maturation under simulated microgravity. And the disorder of γ-tubulin may partially result in disorganization of microtubules under simulated microgravity. These observations suggest that the meiotic spindle organization is gravity dependent. Although the spindle organization was disrupted by simulated microgravity, the function and organization of microfilaments were not pronouncedly affected by simulated microgravity. And we found that simulated microgravity induced oocytes cytoplasmic blebbing via an unknown mechanism. Transmission electron microscope detection showed that the components of the blebs were identified with the cytoplasm. Collectively, these results indicated that the simulated microgravity inhibits mouse oocyte maturation via disturbing spindle organization and inducing cytoplasmic blebbing.
PMCID: PMC3135614  PMID: 21765954
21.  Effect of spaceflight on Pseudomonas aeruginosa final cell density is modulated by nutrient and oxygen availability 
BMC Microbiology  2013;13:241.
Abundant populations of bacteria have been observed on Mir and the International Space Station. While some experiments have shown that bacteria cultured during spaceflight exhibit a range of potentially troublesome characteristics, including increases in growth, antibiotic resistance and virulence, other studies have shown minimal differences when cells were cultured during spaceflight or on Earth. Although the final cell density of bacteria grown during spaceflight has been reported for several species, we are not yet able to predict how different microorganisms will respond to the microgravity environment. In order to build our understanding of how spaceflight affects bacterial final cell densities, additional studies are needed to determine whether the observed differences are due to varied methods, experimental conditions, or organism specific responses.
Here, we have explored how phosphate concentration, carbon source, oxygen availability, and motility affect the growth of Pseudomonas aeruginosa in modified artificial urine media during spaceflight. We observed that P. aeruginosa grown during spaceflight exhibited increased final cell density relative to normal gravity controls when low concentrations of phosphate in the media were combined with decreased oxygen availability. In contrast, when the availability of either phosphate or oxygen was increased, no difference in final cell density was observed between spaceflight and normal gravity. Because motility has been suggested to affect how microbes respond to microgravity, we compared the growth of wild-type P. aeruginosa to a ΔmotABCD mutant deficient in swimming motility. However, the final cell densities observed with the motility mutant were consistent with those observed with wild type for all conditions tested.
These results indicate that differences in bacterial final cell densities observed between spaceflight and normal gravity are due to an interplay between microgravity conditions and the availability of substrates essential for growth. Further, our results suggest that microbes grown under nutrient-limiting conditions are likely to reach higher cell densities under microgravity conditions than they would on Earth. Considering that the majority of bacteria inhabiting spacecrafts and space stations are likely to live under nutrient limitations, our findings highlight the need to explore the impact microgravity and other aspects of the spaceflight environment have on microbial growth and physiology.
PMCID: PMC4228280  PMID: 24192060
Spaceflight; Microgravity; Pseudomonas aeruginosa; Flow cytometry; Motility
22.  Ground-Based Facilities for Simulation of Microgravity: Organism-Specific Recommendations for Their Use, and Recommended Terminology 
Astrobiology  2013;13(1):1-17.
Research in microgravity is indispensable to disclose the impact of gravity on biological processes and organisms. However, research in the near-Earth orbit is severely constrained by the limited number of flight opportunities. Ground-based simulators of microgravity are valuable tools for preparing spaceflight experiments, but they also facilitate stand-alone studies and thus provide additional and cost-efficient platforms for gravitational research. The various microgravity simulators that are frequently used by gravitational biologists are based on different physical principles. This comparative study gives an overview of the most frequently used microgravity simulators and demonstrates their individual capacities and limitations. The range of applicability of the various ground-based microgravity simulators for biological specimens was carefully evaluated by using organisms that have been studied extensively under the conditions of real microgravity in space. In addition, current heterogeneous terminology is discussed critically, and recommendations are given for appropriate selection of adequate simulators and consistent use of nomenclature. Key Words: 2-D clinostat—3-D clinostat—Gravity—Magnetic levitation—Random positioning machine—Simulated microgravity—Space biology. Astrobiology 13, 1–17.
PMCID: PMC3549630  PMID: 23252378
23.  Effects of Simulated Microgravity on Embryonic Stem Cells 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e29214.
There have been many studies on the biological effects of simulated microgravity (SMG) on differentiated cells or adult stem cells. However, there has been no systematic study on the effects of SMG on embryonic stem (ES) cells. In this study, we investigated various effects (including cell proliferation, cell cycle distribution, cell differentiation, cell adhesion, apoptosis, genomic integrity and DNA damage repair) of SMG on mouse embryonic stem (mES) cells. Mouse ES cells cultured under SMG condition had a significantly reduced total cell number compared with cells cultured under 1 g gravity (1G) condition. However, there was no significant difference in cell cycle distribution between SMG and 1G culture conditions, indicating that cell proliferation was not impaired significantly by SMG and was not a major factor contributing to the total cell number reduction. In contrast, a lower adhesion rate cultured under SMG condition contributed to the lower cell number in SMG. Our results also revealed that SMG alone could not induce DNA damage in mES cells while it could affect the repair of radiation-induced DNA lesions of mES cells. Taken together, mES cells were sensitive to SMG and the major alterations in cellular events were cell number expansion, adhesion rate decrease, increased apoptosis and delayed DNA repair progression, which are distinct from the responses of other types of cells to SMG.
PMCID: PMC3244445  PMID: 22216215
24.  Analysis of the Transcriptional Regulator GlpR, Promoter Elements, and Posttranscriptional Processing Involved in Fructose-Induced Activation of the Phosphoenolpyruvate-Dependent Sugar Phosphotransferase System in Haloferax mediterranei 
Among all known archaeal strains, the phosphoenolpyruvate-dependent phosphotransferase system (PTS) for fructose utilization is used primarily by haloarchaea, which thrive in hypersaline environments, whereas the molecular details of the regulation of the archaeal PTS under fructose induction remain unclear. In this study, we present a comprehensive examination of the regulatory mechanism of the fructose PTS in the haloarchaeon Haloferax mediterranei. With gene knockout and complementation, microarray analysis, and chromatin immunoprecipitation-quantitative PCR (ChIP-qPCR), we revealed that GlpR is the indispensable activator, which specifically binds to the PTS promoter (PPTS) during fructose induction. Further promoter-scanning mutation indicated that three sites located upstream of the H. mediterranei PPTS, which are conserved in most haloarchaeal PPTSs, are involved in this induction. Interestingly, two PTS transcripts (named T8 and T17) with different lengths of 5′ untranslated region (UTR) were observed, and promoter or 5′ UTR swap experiments indicated that the shorter 5′ UTR was most likely generated from the longer one. Notably, the translation efficiency of the transcript with this shorter 5′ UTR was significantly higher and the ratio of T8 (with the shorter 5′ UTR) to T17 increased during fructose induction, implying that a posttranscriptional mechanism is also involved in PTS activation. With these insights into the molecular regulation of the haloarchaeal PTS, we have proposed a working model for haloarchaea in response to environmental fructose.
PMCID: PMC3911062  PMID: 24334671
25.  Reversal of the Detrimental Effects of Simulated Microgravity on Human Osteoblasts by Modified Low Intensity Pulsed Ultrasound 
Ultrasound in medicine & biology  2013;39(5):804-812.
Microgravity (MG) is known to induce bone loss in astronauts during long duration spare mission due to lack of sufficient mechanical stimulation under microgravity. It has been demonstrated that mechanical signals are essential for maintain cell viability and motility, and possibly serve as a countermeasure to the catabolic effects of MG. The objective of this study was to examine the effects of high frequency acoustic wave signals on osteoblasts in a simulated microgravity (SMG) environment (created using 1D clinostat bioreactor) using a modified low intensity pulsed ultrasound (mLIPUS). Specifically, we evaluated the hypothesis that osteoblasts [human fetal osteoblastic (hFob) cell line] exposure to mLIPUS for 20 min per day at 30 mW/cm2 will significantly reduce the detrimental effects of SMG. Effects of SMG with mLIPUS were analyzed using the MTS assay for proliferation, Phalloidin for F-actin staining, Sirius red stain for collagen and Alizarin red for mineralization. Our data showed that osteoblast exposure to SMG results in significant decreases in proliferation (~ −38% and ~ −44% at day 4 and 6, respectively, p<0.01), collagen content (~ −22%, p<0.05) and mineralization (~ −37%, p < 0.05) and actin stress fibers. In contrast, mLIPUS stimulation in SMG condition significantly increases the rate of proliferation (~24% by day 6, p<0.05), collagen content (~52%, p < 0.05) and matrix mineralization (~25%, p<0.001) along with restoring formation of actin stress fibers in the SMG-exposed osteoblasts. These data suggest that the acoustic wave can potentially be used as a countermeasure for disuse osteopenia.
PMCID: PMC3717331  PMID: 23453382
simulated microgravity; mechanotransduction; countermeasure; bone loss; LIPUS; acoustic streaming; osteoporosis

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