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1.  Growth of Serratia liquefaciens under 7 mbar, 0°C, and CO2-Enriched Anoxic Atmospheres 
Astrobiology  2013;13(2):115-131.
Twenty-six strains of 22 bacterial species were tested for growth on trypticase soy agar (TSA) or sea-salt agar (SSA) under hypobaric, psychrophilic, and anoxic conditions applied singly or in combination. As each factor was added to multi-parameter assays, the interactive stresses decreased the numbers of strains capable of growth and, in general, reduced the vigor of the strains observed to grow. Only Serratia liquefaciens strain ATCC 27592 exhibited growth at 7 mbar, 0°C, and CO2-enriched anoxic atmospheres. To discriminate between the effects of desiccation and hypobaria, vegetative cells of Bacillus subtilis strain 168 and Escherichia coli strain K12 were grown on TSA surfaces and simultaneously in liquid Luria-Bertani (LB) broth media. Inhibition of growth under hypobaria for 168 and K12 decreased in similar ways for both TSA and LB assays as pressures were reduced from 100 to 25 mbar. Results for 168 and K12 on TSA and LB are interpreted to indicate a direct low-pressure effect on microbial growth with both species and do not support the hypothesis that desiccation alone on TSA was the cause of reduced growth at low pressures. The growth of S. liquefaciens at 7 mbar, 0°C, and CO2-enriched anoxic atmospheres was surprising since S. liquefaciens is ecologically a generalist that occurs in terrestrial plant, fish, animal, and food niches. In contrast, two extremophiles tested in the assays, Deinococcus radiodurans strain R1 and Psychrobacter cryohalolentis strain K5, failed to grow under hypobaric (25 mbar; R1 only), psychrophilic (0°C; R1 only), or anoxic (<0.1% ppO2; both species) conditions. Key Words: Habitable zone—Hypobaria—Extremophiles—Special regions—Planetary protection. Astrobiology 13, 115–131.
PMCID: PMC3582281  PMID: 23289858
2.  Complete Genome Sequence of Serratia liquefaciens Strain ATCC 27592 
Genome Announcements  2013;1(4):e00548-13.
We report the complete genome sequence of Serratia liquefaciens strain ATCC 27592, which was previously identified as capable of growth under low-pressure conditions. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first announcement of the complete genome sequence of an S. liquefaciens strain.
PMCID: PMC3744671  PMID: 23950115
3.  Protective Role of Spore Structural Components in Determining Bacillus subtilis Spore Resistance to Simulated Mars Surface Conditions 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2012;78(24):8849-8853.
Spores of wild-type and mutant Bacillus subtilis strains lacking various structural components were exposed to simulated Martian atmospheric and UV irradiation conditions. Spore survival and mutagenesis were strongly dependent on the functionality of all of the structural components, with small acid-soluble spore proteins, coat layers, and dipicolinic acid as key protectants.
PMCID: PMC3502913  PMID: 23064347
4.  Exploring the Low-Pressure Growth Limit: Evolution of Bacillus subtilis in the Laboratory to Enhanced Growth at 5 Kilopascals ▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2010;76(22):7559-7565.
Growth of Bacillus subtilis cells, normally adapted at Earth-normal atmospheric pressure (∼101.3 kPa), was progressively inhibited by lowering of pressure in liquid LB medium until growth essentially ceased at 2.5 kPa. Growth inhibition was immediately reversible upon return to 101.3 kPa, albeit at a slower rate. A population of B. subtilis cells was cultivated at the near-inhibitory pressure of 5 kPa for 1,000 generations, where a stepwise increase in growth was observed, as measured by the turbidity of 24-h cultures. An isolate from the 1,000-generation population was obtained that showed an increase in fitness at 5 kPa when compared to the ancestral strain or a strain obtained from a parallel population that evolved for 1,000 generations at 101.3 kPa. The results from this preliminary study have implications for understanding the ability of terrestrial microbes to grow in low-pressure environments such as Mars.
PMCID: PMC2976213  PMID: 20889789
5.  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
6.  Growth Performance and Root Transcriptome Remodeling of Arabidopsis in Response to Mars-Like Levels of Magnesium Sulfate 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(8):e12348.
Martian regolith (unconsolidated surface material) is a potential medium for plant growth in bioregenerative life support systems during manned missions on Mars. However, hydrated magnesium sulfate mineral levels in the regolith of Mars can reach as high as 10 wt%, and would be expected to be highly inhibitory to plant growth.
Methodology and Principal Findings
Disabling ion transporters AtMRS2-10 and AtSULTR1;2, which are plasma membrane localized in peripheral root cells, is not an effective way to confer tolerance to magnesium sulfate soils. Arabidopsis mrs2-10 and sel1-10 knockout lines do not mitigate the growth inhibiting impacts of high MgSO4·7H2O concentrations observed with wildtype plants. A global approach was used to identify novel genes with potential to enhance tolerance to high MgSO4·7H2O (magnesium sulfate) stress. The early Arabidopsis root transcriptome response to elevated concentrations of magnesium sulfate was characterized in Col-0, and also between Col-0 and the mutant line cax1-1, which was confirmed to be relatively tolerant of high levels of MgSO4·7H2O in soil solution. Differentially expressed genes in Col-0 treated for 45 min. encode enzymes primarily involved in hormone metabolism, transcription factors, calcium-binding proteins, kinases, cell wall related proteins and membrane-based transporters. Over 200 genes encoding transporters were differentially expressed in Col-0 up to 180 min. of exposure, and one of the first down-regulated genes was CAX1. The importance of this early response in wildtype Arabidopsis is exemplified in the fact that only four transcripts were differentially expressed between Col-0 and cax1-1 at 180 min. after initiation of treatment.
The results provide a solid basis for the understanding of the metabolic response of plants to elevated magnesium sulfate soils; it is the first transcriptome analysis of plants in this environment. The results foster the development of Mars soil-compatible plants by showing that cax1 mutants exhibit partial tolerance to magnesium sulfate, and by elucidating a small subset (500 vs. >10,000) of candidate genes for mutation or metabolic engineering that will enhance tolerance to magnesium sulfate soils.
PMCID: PMC2925951  PMID: 20808807
7.  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
8.  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 1-8 (8)