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1.  New perspectives on viable microbial communities in low-biomass cleanroom environments 
The ISME Journal  2012;7(2):312-324.
The advent of phylogenetic DNA microarrays and high-throughput pyrosequencing technologies has dramatically increased the resolution and accuracy of detection of distinct microbial lineages in mixed microbial assemblages. Despite an expanding array of approaches for detecting microbes in a given sample, rapid and robust means of assessing the differential viability of these cells, as a function of phylogenetic lineage, remain elusive. In this study, pre-PCR propidium monoazide (PMA) treatment was coupled with downstream pyrosequencing and PhyloChip DNA microarray analyses to better understand the frequency, diversity and distribution of viable bacteria in spacecraft assembly cleanrooms. Sample fractions not treated with PMA, which were indicative of the presence of both live and dead cells, yielded a great abundance of highly diverse bacterial pyrosequences. In contrast, only 1% to 10% of all of the pyrosequencing reads, arising from a few robust bacterial lineages, originated from sample fractions that had been pre-treated with PMA. The results of PhyloChip analyses of PMA-treated and -untreated sample fractions were in agreement with those of pyrosequencing. The viable bacterial population detected in cleanrooms devoid of spacecraft hardware was far more diverse than that observed in cleanrooms that housed mission-critical spacecraft hardware. The latter was dominated by hardy, robust organisms previously reported to survive in oligotrophic cleanroom environments. Presented here are the findings of the first ever comprehensive effort to assess the viability of cells in low-biomass environmental samples, and correlate differential viability with phylogenetic affiliation.
PMCID: PMC3554398  PMID: 23051695
viability; microarray; 454 pyrosequencing; PMA; PhyloChip; 16S rRNA gene
2.  Comparison of Innovative Molecular Approaches and Standard Spore Assays for Assessment of Surface Cleanliness ▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2011;77(15):5438-5444.
A bacterial spore assay and a molecular DNA microarray method were compared for their ability to assess relative cleanliness in the context of bacterial abundance and diversity on spacecraft surfaces. Colony counts derived from the NASA standard spore assay were extremely low for spacecraft surfaces. However, the PhyloChip generation 3 (G3) DNA microarray resolved the genetic signatures of a highly diverse suite of microorganisms in the very same sample set. Samples completely devoid of cultivable spores were shown to harbor the DNA of more than 100 distinct microbial phylotypes. Furthermore, samples with higher numbers of cultivable spores did not necessarily give rise to a greater microbial diversity upon analysis with the DNA microarray. The findings of this study clearly demonstrated that there is not a statistically significant correlation between the cultivable spore counts obtained from a sample and the degree of bacterial diversity present. Based on these results, it can be stated that validated state-of-the-art molecular techniques, such as DNA microarrays, can be utilized in parallel with classical culture-based methods to further describe the cleanliness of spacecraft surfaces.
PMCID: PMC3147454  PMID: 21652744
3.  Survival of Spacecraft-Associated Microorganisms under Simulated Martian UV Irradiation 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2005;71(12):8147-8156.
Spore-forming microbes recovered from spacecraft surfaces and assembly facilities were exposed to simulated Martian UV irradiation. The effects of UVA (315 to 400 nm), UVA+B (280 to 400 nm), and the full UV spectrum (200 to 400 nm) on the survival of microorganisms were studied at UV intensities expected to strike the surfaces of Mars. Microbial species isolated from the surfaces of several spacecraft, including Mars Odyssey, X-2000 (avionics), and the International Space Station, and their assembly facilities were identified using 16S rRNA gene sequencing. Forty-three Bacillus spore lines were screened, and 19 isolates showed resistance to UVC irradiation (200 to 280 nm) after exposure to 1,000 J m−2 of UVC irradiation at 254 nm using a low-pressure mercury lamp. Spores of Bacillus species isolated from spacecraft-associated surfaces were more resistant than a standard dosimetric strain, Bacillus subtilis 168. In addition, the exposure time required for UVA+B irradiation to reduce the viable spore numbers by 90% was 35-fold longer than the exposure time required for the full UV spectrum to do this, confirming that UVC is the primary biocidal bandwidth. Among the Bacillus species tested, spores of a Bacillus pumilus strain showed the greatest resistance to all three UV bandwidths, as well as the total spectrum. The resistance to simulated Mars UV irradiation was strain specific; B. pumilus SAFR-032 exhibited greater resistance than all other strains tested. The isolation of organisms like B. pumilus SAFR-032 and the greater survival of this organism (sixfold) than of the standard dosimetric strains should be considered when the sanitation capabilities of UV irradiation are determined.
PMCID: PMC1317311  PMID: 16332797

Results 1-3 (3)