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1.  Resistance of Bacterial Endospores to Outer Space for Planetary Protection Purposes—Experiment PROTECT of the EXPOSE-E Mission 
Astrobiology  2012;12(5):445-456.
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.
PMCID: PMC3371261  PMID: 22680691
2.  Utilization of Low-Pressure Plasma to Inactivate Bacterial Spores on Stainless Steel Screws 
Astrobiology  2013;13(7):597-606.
A special focus area of planetary protection is the monitoring, control, and reduction of microbial contaminations that are detected on spacecraft components and hardware during and after assembly. In this study, wild-type spores of Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032 (a persistent spacecraft assembly facility isolate) and the laboratory model organism B. subtilis 168 were used to study the effects of low-pressure plasma, with hydrogen alone and in combination with oxygen and evaporated hydrogen peroxide as a process gas, on spore survival, which was determined by a colony formation assay. Spores of B. pumilus SAFR-032 and B. subtilis 168 were deposited with an aseptic technique onto the surface of stainless steel screws to simulate a spore-contaminated spacecraft hardware component, and were subsequently exposed to different plasmas and hydrogen peroxide conditions in a very high frequency capacitively coupled plasma reactor (VHF-CCP) to reduce the spore burden. Spores of the spacecraft isolate B. pumilus SAFR-032 were significantly more resistant to plasma treatment than spores of B. subtilis 168. The use of low-pressure plasma with an additional treatment of evaporated hydrogen peroxide also led to an enhanced spore inactivation that surpassed either single treatment when applied alone, which indicates the potential application of this method as a fast and suitable way to reduce spore-contaminated spacecraft hardware components for planetary protection purposes. Key Words: Bacillus spores—Contamination—Spacecraft hardware—Plasma sterilization—Planetary protection. Astrobiology 13, 597–606.
PMCID: PMC3713438  PMID: 23768085
3.  Effect of Shadowing on Survival of Bacteria under Conditions Simulating the Martian Atmosphere and UV Radiation▿ †  
Spacecraft-associated spores and four non-spore-forming bacterial isolates were prepared in Atacama Desert soil suspensions and tested both in solution and in a desiccated state to elucidate the shadowing effect of soil particulates on bacterial survival under simulated Martian atmospheric and UV irradiation conditions. All non-spore-forming cells that were prepared in nutrient-depleted, 0.2-μm-filtered desert soil (DSE) microcosms and desiccated for 75 days on aluminum died, whereas cells prepared similarly in 60-μm-filtered desert soil (DS) microcosms survived such conditions. Among the bacterial cells tested, Microbacterium schleiferi and Arthrobacter sp. exhibited elevated resistance to 254-nm UV irradiation (low-pressure Hg lamp), and their survival indices were comparable to those of DS- and DSE-associated Bacillus pumilus spores. Desiccated DSE-associated spores survived exposure to full Martian UV irradiation (200 to 400 nm) for 5 min and were only slightly affected by Martian atmospheric conditions in the absence of UV irradiation. Although prolonged UV irradiation (5 min to 12 h) killed substantial portions of the spores in DSE microcosms (∼5- to 6-log reduction with Martian UV irradiation), dramatic survival of spores was apparent in DS-spore microcosms. The survival of soil-associated wild-type spores under Martian conditions could have repercussions for forward contamination of extraterrestrial environments, especially Mars.
PMCID: PMC2258572  PMID: 18083857
4.  Persistence of Biomarker ATP and ATP-Generating Capability in Bacterial Cells and Spores Contaminating Spacecraft Materials under Earth Conditions and in a Simulated Martian Environment▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2008;74(16):5159-5167.
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.
PMCID: PMC2519281  PMID: 18567687
5.  Protection of Bacillus pumilus Spores by Catalases 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2012;78(18):6413-6422.
Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032, isolated at spacecraft assembly facilities of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is difficult to kill by the sterilization method of choice, which uses liquid or vapor hydrogen peroxide. We identified two manganese catalases, YjqC and BPUM_1305, in spore protein extracts of several B. pumilus strains by using PAGE and mass spectrometric analyses. While the BPUM_1305 catalase was present in six of the B. pumilus strains tested, YjqC was not detected in ATCC 7061 and BG-B79. Furthermore, both catalases were localized in the spore coat layer along with laccase and superoxide dismutase. Although the initial catalase activity in ATCC 7061 spores was higher, it was less stable over time than the SAFR-032 enzyme. We propose that synergistic activity of YjqC and BPUM_1305, along with other coat oxidoreductases, contributes to the enhanced resistance of B. pumilus spores to hydrogen peroxide. We observed that the product of the catalase reaction, gaseous oxygen, forms expanding vesicles on the spore surface, affecting the mechanical integrity of the coat layer, resulting in aggregation of the spores. The accumulation of oxygen gas and aggregations may play a crucial role in limiting further exposure of Bacilli spore surfaces to hydrogen peroxide or other toxic chemicals when water is present.
PMCID: PMC3426692  PMID: 22752169
6.  Candidate Genes That May Be Responsible for the Unusual Resistances Exhibited by Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032 Spores 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e66012.
The spores of several Bacillus species, including Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032 and B. safensis FO-36b, which were isolated from the spacecraft assembly facility at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, are unusually resistant to UV radiation and hydrogen peroxide. In order to identify candidate genes that might be associated with these resistances, the whole genome of B. pumilus SAFR-032, and the draft genome of B. safensis FO-36b were compared in detail with the very closely related type strain B. pumilus ATCC7061T. 170 genes are considered characteristic of SAFR-032, because they are absent from both FO-36b and ATCC7061T. Forty of these SAFR-032 characteristic genes are entirely unique open reading frames. In addition, four genes are unique to the genomes of the resistant SAFR-032 and FO-36b. Fifty three genes involved in spore coat formation, regulation and germination, DNA repair, and peroxide resistance, are missing from all three genomes. The vast majority of these are cleanly deleted from their usual genomic context without any obvious replacement. Several DNA repair and peroxide resistance genes earlier reported to be unique to SAFR-032 are in fact shared with ATCC7061T and no longer considered to be promising candidates for association with the elevated resistances. Instead, several SAFR-032 characteristic genes were identified, which along with one or more of the unique SAFR-032 genes may be responsible for the elevated resistances. These new candidates include five genes associated with DNA repair, namely, BPUM_0608 a helicase, BPUM_0652 an ATP binding protein, BPUM_0653 an endonuclease, BPUM_0656 a DNA cytosine-5- methyltransferase, and BPUM_3674 a DNA helicase. Three of these candidate genes are in immediate proximity of two conserved hypothetical proteins, BPUM_0654 and BPUM_0655 that are also absent from both FO-36b and ATCC7061T. This cluster of five genes is considered to be an especially promising target for future experimental work.
PMCID: PMC3682946  PMID: 23799069
7.  Paradoxical DNA Repair and Peroxide Resistance Gene Conservation in Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032 
PLoS ONE  2007;2(9):e928.
Bacillus spores are notoriously resistant to unfavorable conditions such as UV radiation, γ-radiation, H2O2, desiccation, chemical disinfection, or starvation. Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032 survives standard decontamination procedures of the Jet Propulsion Lab spacecraft assembly facility, and both spores and vegetative cells of this strain exhibit elevated resistance to UV radiation and H2O2 compared to other Bacillus species.
Principal Findings
The genome of B. pumilus SAFR-032 was sequenced and annotated. Lists of genes relevant to DNA repair and the oxidative stress response were generated and compared to B. subtilis and B. licheniformis. Differences in conservation of genes, gene order, and protein sequences are highlighted because they potentially explain the extreme resistance phenotype of B. pumilus. The B. pumilus genome includes genes not found in B. subtilis or B. licheniformis and conserved genes with sequence divergence, but paradoxically lacks several genes that function in UV or H2O2 resistance in other Bacillus species.
This study identifies several candidate genes for further research into UV and H2O2 resistance. These findings will help explain the resistance of B. pumilus and are applicable to understanding sterilization survival strategies of microbes.
PMCID: PMC1976550  PMID: 17895969
8.  Effects of Simulated Mars Conditions on the Survival and Growth of Escherichia coli and Serratia liquefaciens▿  
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.
PMCID: PMC2849189  PMID: 20154104
9.  Survival of Shewanella oneidensis MR-1 after UV Radiation Exposure 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2004;70(11):6435-6443.
We systematically investigated the physiological response as well as DNA damage repair and damage tolerance in Shewanella oneidensis MR-1 following UVC, UVB, UVA, and solar light exposure. MR-1 showed the highest UVC sensitivity among Shewanella strains examined, with D37 and D10 values of 5.6 and 16.5% of Escherichia coli K-12 values. Stationary cells did not show an increased UVA resistance compared to exponential-phase cells; instead, they were more sensitive at high UVA dose. UVA-irradiated MR-1 survived better on tryptic soy agar than Luria-Bertani plates regardless of the growth stage. A 20% survival rate of MR-1 was observed following doses of 3.3 J of UVC m−2, 568 J of UVB m−2, 25 kJ of UVA m−2, and 558 J of solar UVB m−2, respectively. Photoreactivation conferred an increased survival rate to MR-1 of as much as 177- to 365-fold, 11- to 23-fold, and 3- to 10-fold following UVC, UVB, and solar light irradiation, respectively. A significant UV mutability to rifampin resistance was detected in both UVC- and UVB-treated samples, with the mutation frequency in the range of 10−5 to 10−6. Unlike in E. coli, the expression levels of the nucleotide excision repair (NER) component genes uvrA, uvrB, and uvrD were not damage inducible in MR-1. Complementation of Pseudomonas aeruginosa UA11079 (uvrA deficient) with uvrA of MR-1 increased the UVC survival of this strain by more than 3 orders of magnitude. Loss of damage inducibility of the NER system appears to contribute to the high sensitivity of this bacterium to UVR as well as to other DNA-damaging agents.
PMCID: PMC525172  PMID: 15528503
10.  Potassium ferrate [Fe(VI)] does not mediate self-sterilization of a surrogate mars soil 
BMC Microbiology  2003;3:4.
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.
PMCID: PMC153549  PMID: 12694634
11.  Multifactorial Resistance of Bacillus subtilis Spores to High-Energy Proton Radiation: Role of Spore Structural Components and the Homologous Recombination and Non-Homologous End Joining DNA Repair Pathways 
Astrobiology  2012;12(11):1069-1077.
The space environment contains high-energy charged particles (e.g., protons, neutrons, electrons, α-particles, heavy ions) emitted by the Sun and galactic sources or trapped in the radiation belts. Protons constitute the majority (87%) of high-energy charged particles. Spores of Bacillus species are one of the model systems used for astro- and radiobiological studies. In this study, spores of different Bacillus subtilis strains were used to study the effects of high energetic proton irradiation on spore survival. Spores of the wild-type B. subtilis strain [mutants deficient in the homologous recombination (HR) and non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) DNA repair pathways and mutants deficient in various spore structural components such as dipicolinic acid (DPA), α/β-type small, acid-soluble spore protein (SASP) formation, spore coats, pigmentation, or spore core water content] were irradiated as air-dried multilayers on spacecraft-qualified aluminum coupons with 218 MeV protons [with a linear energy transfer (LET) of 0.4 keV/μm] to various final doses up to 2500 Gy. Spores deficient in NHEJ- and HR-mediated DNA repair were significantly more sensitive to proton radiation than wild-type spores, indicating that both HR and NHEJ DNA repair pathways are needed for spore survival. Spores lacking DPA, α/β-type SASP, or with increased core water content were also significantly more sensitive to proton radiation, whereas the resistance of spores lacking pigmentation or spore coats was essentially identical to that of the wild-type spores. Our results indicate that α/β-type SASP, core water content, and DPA play an important role in spore resistance to high-energy proton irradiation, suggesting their essential function as radioprotectants of the spore interior. Key Words: Bacillus—Spores—DNA repair—Protection—High-energy proton radiation. Astrobiology 12, 1069–1077.
PMCID: PMC3491616  PMID: 23088412
12.  UVA-induced cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers form predominantly at thymine–thymine dipyrimidines and correlate with the mutation spectrum in rodent cells 
Nucleic Acids Research  2003;31(11):2786-2794.
Ligation-mediated PCR was employed to quantify cyclobutane pyrimidine dimer (CPD) formation at nucleotide resolution along exon 2 of the adenine phosphoribosyltransferase (aprt) locus in Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells following irradiation with either UVA (340–400 nm), UVB (295–320 nm), UVC (254 nm) or simulated sunlight (SSL; λ > 295 nm). The resulting DNA damage spectrum for each wavelength region was then aligned with the corresponding mutational spectrum generated previously in the same genetic target. The DNA sequence specificities of CPD formation induced by UVC, UVB or SSL were very similar, i.e., in each case the overall relative proportion of this photoproduct forming at TT, TC, CT and CC sites was ∼28, ∼26, ∼16 and ∼30%, respectively. Furthermore, a clear correspondence was noted between the precise locations of CPD damage hotspots, and of ‘UV signature’ mutational hotspots consisting primarily of C→T and CC→TT transitions within pyrimidine runs. However, following UVA exposure, in strong contrast to the above situation for UVC, UVB or SSL, CPDs were generated much more frequently at TT sites than at TC, CT or CC sites (57% versus 18, 11 and 14%, respectively). This CPD deposition pattern correlates well with the strikingly high proportion of mutations recovered opposite TT dipyrimidines in UVA- irradiated CHO cells. Our results directly implicate the CPD as a major promutagenic DNA photoproduct induced specifically by UVA in rodent cells.
PMCID: PMC156735  PMID: 12771205
13.  Dry-heat resistance of selected psychrophiles. 
The dry-heat resistance characteristics of spores of psychrophilic organisms isolated from soil samples from the Viking spacecraft assembly areas at Cape Kennedy Space Flight Center, Cape Canaveral, Fla., were studied. Spore suspensions were produced, and dry-heat D values were determined for the microorganisms that demonstrated growth or survival under a simulated Martian environment. The dry-heat tests were carried out by using the planchet-boat-hot plate system at 110 and 125 degrees C with an ambient relative humidity of 50% at 22 degrees C. The spores evaluated had a relatively low resistance to dry heat. D(110 degrees C) values ranged from 7.5 to 122 min, whereas the D(123 degrees C) values ranged from less than 1.0 to 9.8 min.
PMCID: PMC242613  PMID: 410367
14.  Comparative Analysis of Differentially Expressed Genes in Shewanella oneidensis MR-1 following Exposure to UVC, UVB, and UVA Radiation†  
Journal of Bacteriology  2005;187(10):3556-3564.
We previously reported that Shewanella oneidensis MR-1 is highly sensitive to UVC (254 nm), UVB (290 to 320 nm), and UVA (320 to 400 nm). Here we delineated the cellular response of MR-1 to UV radiation damage by analyzing the transcriptional profile during a 1-h recovering period after UVC, UVB, and UVA exposure at a dose that yields about a 20% survival rate. Although the SOS response was observed with all three treatments, the induction was more robust in response to short-wavelength UV radiation (UVB and UVC). Similarly, more prophage-related genes were induced by short-wavelength UV radiation. MR-1 showed an active detoxification mechanism in response to UVA, which included the induction of antioxidant enzymes and iron-sequestering proteins to scavenge reactive oxygen species. In addition, a great number of genes encoding multidrug and heavy metal efflux pumps were induced following UVA irradiation. Our data suggested that activation of prophages appears the major lethal factor in MR-1 following UVC or UVB irradiation, whereas oxidative damage contributes greatly to the high UVA sensitivity in MR-1.
PMCID: PMC1111996  PMID: 15866945
15.  Roles of Small, Acid-Soluble Spore Proteins and Core Water Content in Survival of Bacillus subtilis Spores Exposed to Environmental Solar UV Radiation▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2009;75(16):5202-5208.
Spores of Bacillus subtilis contain a number of small, acid-soluble spore proteins (SASP) which comprise up to 20% of total spore core protein. The multiple α/β-type SASP have been shown to confer resistance to UV radiation, heat, peroxides, and other sporicidal treatments. In this study, SASP-defective mutants of B. subtilis and spores deficient in dacB, a mutation leading to an increased core water content, were used to study the relative contributions of SASP and increased core water content to spore resistance to germicidal 254-nm and simulated environmental UV exposure (280 to 400 nm, 290 to 400 nm, and 320 to 400 nm). Spores of strains carrying mutations in sspA, sspB, and both sspA and sspB (lacking the major SASP-α and/or SASP-β) were significantly more sensitive to 254-nm and all polychromatic UV exposures, whereas the UV resistance of spores of the sspE strain (lacking SASP-γ) was essentially identical to that of the wild type. Spores of the dacB-defective strain were as resistant to 254-nm UV-C radiation as wild-type spores. However, spores of the dacB strain were significantly more sensitive than wild-type spores to environmental UV treatments of >280 nm. Air-dried spores of the dacB mutant strain had a significantly higher water content than air-dried wild-type spores. Our results indicate that α/β-type SASP and decreased spore core water content play an essential role in spore resistance to environmentally relevant UV wavelengths whereas SASP-γ does not.
PMCID: PMC2725452  PMID: 19542328
16.  Resistance and recovery studies on ultraviolet-irradiated spores of Bacillus pumilus. 
A spore suspension model and a procedure for recovering ultraviolet (UV)-irradiated spores of Bacillus pumilus were investigated. A most-probable-number tube dilution method using double-strength Trypticase soy broth was found to be superior to the agar plate method for recovering optimal numbers of spores irradiated with sublethal doses of UV energy. Aqueous suspensions of B. pumilus survived UV doses up to 108,000 ergs/mm2 as determined by a most-probable-number recovery and estimation procedure. Resistance and stability data were consistent and reproducible, indicating the dependability of this method for recovering UV-damaged spores. The procedures used to collect information concerning resistance characteristics for two strains of B. pumilus are discussed.
PMCID: PMC291406  PMID: 7377772
17.  The two major spore DNA repair pathways, nucleotide excision repair and spore photoproduct lyase, are sufficient for the resistance of Bacillus subtilis spores to artificial UV-C and UV-B but not to solar radiation. 
Bacterial endospores are 1 to 2 orders of magnitude more resistant to 254-nm UV (UV-C) radiation than are exponentially growing cells of the same strain. This high UV resistance is due to two related phenomena: (i) DNA of dormant spores irradiated with 254-nm UV accumulates mainly a unique thymine dimer called the spore photoproduct (SP), and (ii) SP is corrected during spore germination by two major DNA repair pathways, nucleotide excision repair (NER) and an SP-specific enzyme called SP lyase. To date, it has been assumed that these two factors also account for resistance of bacterial spores to solar UV in the environment, despite the fact that sunlight at the Earth's surface consists of UV-B, UV-A, visible, and infrared wavelengths of approximately 290 nm and longer. To test this assumption, isogenic strains of Bacillus subtilis lacking either the NER or SP lyase DNA repair pathway were assayed for their relative resistance to radiation at a number of UV wavelengths, including UV-C (254 nm), UV-B (290 to 320 nm), full-spectrum sunlight, and sunlight from which the UV-B portion had been removed. For purposes of direct comparison, spore UV resistance levels were determined with respect to a calibrated biological dosimeter consisting of a mixture of wild-type spores and spores lacking both DNA repair systems. It was observed that the relative contributions of the two pathways to spore UV resistance change depending on the UV wavelengths used in a manner suggesting that spores irradiated with light at environmentally relevant UV wavelengths may accumulate significant amounts of one or more DNA photoproducts in addition to SP. Furthermore, it was noted that upon exposure to increasing wavelengths, wild-type spores decreased in their UV resistance from 33-fold (UV-C) to 12-fold (UV-B plus UV-A sunlight) to 6-fold (UV-A sunlight alone) more resistant than mutants lacking both DNA repair systems, suggesting that at increasing solar UV wavelengths, spores are inactivated either by DNA damage not reparable by the NER or SP lyase system, damage caused to photosensitive molecules other than DNA, or both.
PMCID: PMC168002  PMID: 8779559
18.  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
19.  Searching for signatures of life on Mars: an Fe-isotope perspective 
Recent spacecraft and lander missions to Mars have reinforced previous interpretations that Mars was a wet and warm planet in the geological past. The role of liquid water in shaping many of the surface features on Mars has long been recognized. Since the presence of liquid water is essential for survival of life, conditions on early Mars might have been more favourable for the emergence and evolution of life. Until a sample return mission to Mars, one of the ways of studying the past environmental conditions on Mars is through chemical and isotopic studies of Martian meteorites. Over 35 individual meteorite samples, believed to have originated on Mars, are now available for lab-based studies. Fe is a key element that is present in both primary and secondary minerals in the Martian meteorites. Fe-isotope ratios can be fractionated by low-temperature processes which includes biological activity. Experimental investigations of Fe reduction and oxidation by bacteria have produced large fractionation in Fe-isotope ratios. Hence, it is considered likely that if there is/were any form of life present on Mars then it might be possible to detect its signature by Fe-isotope studies of Martian meteorites. In the present study, we have analysed a number of Martian meteorites for their bulk-Fe-isotope composition. In addition, a set of terrestrial analogue material has also been analysed to compare the results and draw inferences. So far, our studies have not found any measurable Fe-isotopic fractionation in bulk Martian meteorites that can be ascribed to any low-temperature process operative on Mars.
PMCID: PMC1664681  PMID: 17008212
Mars; Martian meteorites; SNC; terrestrial analogues; iron isotopes; life
20.  Screening for Bacillus Isolates in the Broiler Gastrointestinal Tract 
Spores from a number of different Bacillus species are currently being used as human and animal probiotics, although their mechanisms of action remain poorly understood. Here we describe the isolation of 237 presumptive gut-associated Bacillus spp. isolates that were obtained by heat and ethanol treatment of fecal material from organically reared broilers followed by aerobic plating. Thirty-one representative isolates were characterized according to their morphological, physiological, and biochemical properties as well as partial 16S rRNA gene sequences and screening for the presence of plasmid DNA. The Bacillus species identified included B. subtilis, B. pumilus, B. licheniformis, B. clausii, B. megaterium, B. firmus, and species of the B. cereus group, whereas a number of our isolates could not be classified. Intrinsic properties of potential importance for survival in the gut that could be advantageous for spore-forming probiotics were further investigated for seven isolates belonging to five different species. All isolates sporulated efficiently in the laboratory, and the resulting spores were tolerant to simulated gastrointestinal tract conditions. They also exhibited antimicrobial activity against a broad spectrum of bacteria, including food spoilage and pathogenic organisms such as Bacillus spp., Clostridium perfringens, Staphylococcus aureus, and Listeria monocytogenes. Importantly, the isolates were susceptible to most of the antibiotics tested, arguing that they would not act as donors for resistance determinants if introduced in the form of probiotic preparations. Together, our results suggest that some of the sporeformers isolated in this study have the potential to persist in or transiently associate with the complex gut ecosystem.
PMCID: PMC546680  PMID: 15691955
21.  Bacillus Endospores Isolated from Granite: Close Molecular Relationships to Globally Distributed Bacillus spp. from Endolithic and Extreme Environments 
As part of an ongoing effort to catalog spore-forming bacterial populations in environments conducive to interplanetary transfer by natural impacts or by human spaceflight activities, spores of Bacillus spp. were isolated and characterized from the interior of near-subsurface granite rock collected from the Santa Catalina Mountains, AZ. Granite was found to contain ∼500 cultivable Bacillus spores and ∼104 total cultivable bacteria per gram. Many of the Bacillus isolates produced a previously unreported diffusible blue fluorescent compound. Two strains of eight tested exhibited increased spore UV resistance relative to a standard Bacillus subtilis UV biodosimetry strain. Fifty-six isolates were identified by repetitive extragenic palindromic PCR (rep-PCR) and 16S rRNA gene analysis as most closely related to B. megaterium (15 isolates), B. simplex (23 isolates), B. drentensis (6 isolates), B. niacini (7 isolates), and, likely, a new species related to B. barbaricus (5 isolates). Granite isolates were very closely related to a limited number of Bacillus spp. previously found to inhabit (i) globally distributed endolithic sites such as biodeteriorated murals, stone tombs, underground caverns, and rock concretions and (ii) extreme environments such as Antarctic soils, deep sea floor sediments, and spacecraft assembly facilities. Thus, it appears that the occurrence of Bacillus spp. in endolithic or extreme environments is not accidental but that these environments create unique niches excluding most Bacillus spp. but to which a limited number of Bacillus spp. are specifically adapted.
PMCID: PMC1449054  PMID: 16597992
22.  Characterization of Bacillus Probiotics Available for Human Use 
Bacillus species (Bacillus cereus, Bacillus clausii, Bacillus pumilus) carried in five commercial probiotic products consisting of bacterial spores were characterized for potential attributes (colonization, immunostimulation, and antimicrobial activity) that could account for their claimed probiotic properties. Three B. cereus strains were shown to persist in the mouse gastrointestinal tract for up to 18 days postadministration, demonstrating that these organisms have some ability to colonize. Spores of one B. cereus strain were extremely sensitive to simulated gastric conditions and simulated intestinal fluids. Spores of all strains were immunogenic when they were given orally to mice, but the B. pumilus strain was found to generate particularly high anti-spore immunoglobulin G titers. Spores of B. pumilus and of a laboratory strain of B. subtilis were found to induce the proinflammatory cytokine interleukin-6 in a cultured macrophage cell line, and in vivo, spores of B. pumilus and B. subtilis induced the proinflammatory cytokine tumor necrosis factor alpha and the Th1 cytokine gamma interferon. The B. pumilus strain and one B. cereus strain (B. cereus var. vietnami) were found to produce a bacteriocin-like activity against other Bacillus species. The results that provided evidence of colonization, immunostimulation, and antimicrobial activity support the hypothesis that the organisms have a potential probiotic effect. However, the three B. cereus strains were also found to produce the Hbl and Nhe enterotoxins, which makes them unsafe for human use.
PMCID: PMC383048  PMID: 15066809
23.  Direct Enzymatic Repair of Deoxyribonucleic Acid Single-Strand Breaks in Dormant Spores 
Journal of Bacteriology  1974;118(1):129-138.
With the alkaline sucrose gradient centrifugation method, it was found that dormant spores of Clostridium botulinum subjected to 300 krads of gamma radiation showed a distinct decrease in deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) fragment size, indicating induction of single-strand breaks (SSB). A two- to threefold difference in radiation resistance of spores of two strains of C. botulinum, 33A (37% survival dose [D37] = 110 krads) and 51B (D37 = 47 krads), was accompanied by relatively larger DNA fragments (molecular weight 7.9 × 107) obtained during extraction from the radiation-resistant strain 33A and smaller DNA fragments (molecular weight 1.8 × 107) obtained under identical conditions from radiation-sensitive strain 51B. The apparent number of DNA SSB produced by 300 krads in strains 33A and 51B was 0.37 and 3.50, respectively, per 108 daltons of DNA. Addition of 0.02 M ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) to spore suspensions during irradiation doubled the apparent number of SSB in strain 33A but had no effect on strain 51B. In vivo, 0.02 M EDTA present during irradiation to 100 to 300 krads decreased survival of spores of 33A by about 30% but had little or no effect on 51B. Survival of 33A was also reduced by about 45% when the spores were irradiated while frozen in dry ice (−75 C) and, after irradiation, immediately exposed to 0.03 M EDTA for 1 h to inhibit repair in the dormant spores. These results suggest that the highly radiation-resistant strain 33A may be able to accomplish repair of SSB during irradiation or after irradiation under nonphysiological conditions, i.e., in the dormant state. This repair can be inhibited by EDTA. Sedimentation patterns show that DNA from spores of both strains 33A and 51B did not show any postirradiation repair during the first 6 h of germination, as opposed to Bacillus subtilis spores, which exhibit repair immediately after germination. These observations suggest the existence of direct repair in physiological dormant spores of strain 33A in the cryptobiotic resting state in the absence of germination. The repair seems to be similar to that of polynucleotide ligase activity shown to be operative in some vegetative cells. Apparently radiation-sensitive strains such as 51B and B. subtilis are generally poor in DNA repair enzyme activity under conditions of spore dormancy, which may account for the approximately threefold difference in radiation sensitivity or DNA fragility of different strains, or both.
PMCID: PMC246648  PMID: 4206867
24.  In Vitro Assessment of Marine Bacillus for Use as Livestock Probiotics 
Marine Drugs  2014;12(5):2422-2445.
Six antimicrobial-producing seaweed-derived Bacillus strains were evaluated in vitro as animal probiotics, in comparison to two Bacillus from an EU-authorized animal probiotic product. Antimicrobial activity was demonstrated on solid media against porcine Salmonella and E. coli. The marine isolates were most active against the latter, had better activity than the commercial probiotics and Bacillus pumilus WIT 588 also reduced E. coli counts in broth. All of the marine Bacillus tolerated physiological concentrations of bile, with some as tolerant as one of the probiotics. Spore counts for all isolates remained almost constant during incubation in simulated gastric and ileum juices. All of the marine Bacillus grew anaerobically and the spores of all except one isolate germinated under anaerobic conditions. All were sensitive to a panel of antibiotics and none harbored Bacillus enterotoxin genes but all, except B. pumilus WIT 588, showed some degree of β-hemolysis. However, trypan blue dye exclusion and xCELLigence assays demonstrated a lack of toxicity in comparison to two pathogens; in fact, the commercial probiotics appeared more cytotoxic than the majority of the marine Bacillus. Overall, some of the marine-derived Bacillus, in particular B. pumilus WIT 588, demonstrate potential for use as livestock probiotics.
PMCID: PMC4052298  PMID: 24796302
spores; antimicrobial; E. coli; xCELLigence; pigs
25.  Ultraviolet-C Irradiation for Prevention of Central Venous Catheter Related Infections: An In-vitro Study 
Photochemistry and photobiology  2010;87(1):250-255.
Central venous catheters (CVC) are widely used in the United States and are associated with 250,000 to 500,000 CVC-related infections in hospitals annually. We used a catheter made from ultraviolet-C (UVC) transmissive material to test whether delivery of UVC from the lumen would allow inactivation of microorganisms on the outer surface of CVC. When the catheter was exposed to UVC irradiation from a cold cathode fluorescent lamp (CCFL) inside the catheter lumen at a radiant exposure of 3.6 mJ/cm2, more than 6-log10 of drug-resistant Gram-positive bacteria adhered to the outer surface of the catheter were inactivated. Three to 7-log10 of drug-resistant Gram-negative bacteria and 2.8 log10 of fungi were inactivated at a radiant exposure of 11 mJ/cm2. UVC irradiation also offered a highly selective inactivation of bacteria over keratinocytes under exactly comparable conditions. After 11 mJ/cm2 UVC light had been delivered, over 6 log10 of bacteria were inactivated while the viability loss of the keratinocytes was only about 57%.
PMCID: PMC3010268  PMID: 21073470

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