Bugs In Space

Spaceman Bacteria behave differently in space, as indicated by reports of reduced lag phase, higher final cell counts, enhanced biofilm formation, increased virulence, and reduced susceptibility to antibiotics. These phenomena are theorized, at least in part, to result from reduced mass transport in the local extracellular environment, where movement of molecules consumed and excreted by the cell is limited to diffusion in the absence of gravity-dependent convection. However, to date neither empirical nor computational approaches have been able to provide sufficient evidence to confirm this explanation. Molecular genetic analysis findings, conducted as part of a recent spaceflight investigation, support the proposed model. This new paper reposring research conducted aboard the International Space Station indicates an overexpression of genes associated with starvation, the search for alternative energy sources, increased metabolism, enhanced acetate production, and other systematic responses to acidity – all of which can be associated with reduced extracellular mass transport.

A Molecular Genetic Basis Explaining Altered Bacterial Behavior in Space. (2016) PLoS ONE 11(11): e0164359. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0164359

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