Astrobiology

Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres

, Volume 42, Issue 2, pp 253-262

LIFE Experiment: Isolation of Cryptoendolithic Organisms from Antarctic Colonized Sandstone Exposed to Space and Simulated Mars Conditions on the International Space Station

  • Giuliano ScalziAffiliated withDepartment of Ecological and Biological Sciences (DEB), University of Tuscia Email author 
  • , Laura SelbmannAffiliated withDepartment of Ecological and Biological Sciences (DEB), University of Tuscia
  • , Laura ZucconiAffiliated withDepartment of Ecological and Biological Sciences (DEB), University of Tuscia
  • , Elke RabbowAffiliated withGerman Aerospace Centre, Institute of Aerospace Medicine
  • , Gerda HorneckAffiliated withGerman Aerospace Centre, Institute of Aerospace Medicine
  • , Patrizia AlbertanoAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of Rome “Tor Vergata”
  • , Silvano OnofriAffiliated withDepartment of Ecological and Biological Sciences (DEB), University of Tuscia

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Abstract

Desiccated Antarctic rocks colonized by cryptoendolithic communities were exposed on the International Space Station (ISS) to space and simulated Mars conditions (LiFE—Lichens and Fungi Experiment). After 1.5 years in space samples were retrieved, rehydrated and spread on different culture media. Colonies of a green alga and a pink-coloured fungus developed on Malt-Agar medium; they were isolated from a sample exposed to simulated Mars conditions beneath a 0.1 % T Suprasil neutral density filter and from a sample exposed to space vacuum without solar radiation exposure, respectively. None of the other flight samples showed any growth after incubation. The two organisms able to grow were identified at genus level by Small SubUnit (SSU) and Internal Transcribed Spacer (ITS) rDNA sequencing as Stichococcus sp. (green alga) and Acarospora sp. (lichenized fungal genus) respectively. The data in the present study provide experimental information on the possibility of eukaryotic life transfer from one planet to another by means of rocks and of survival in Mars environment.

Keywords

Antarctic colonized rocks EXPOSE-E International space station Lithopanspermia Lichens and Fungi Experiment