Microbial antibiotic production aboard the International Space Station
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- Benoit, M.R., Li, W., Stodieck, L.S. et al. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol (2006) 70: 403. doi:10.1007/s00253-005-0098-3
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Previous studies examining metabolic characteristics of bacterial cultures have mostly suggested that reduced gravity is advantageous for microbial growth. As a consequence, the question of whether space flight would similarly enhance secondary metabolite production was raised. Results from three prior space shuttle experiments indicated that antibiotic production was stimulated in space for two different microbial systems, albeit under suboptimal growth conditions. The goal of this latest experiment was to determine whether the enhanced productivity would also occur with better growth conditions and over longer durations of weightlessness. Microbial antibiotic production was examined onboard the International Space Station during the 72-day 8A increment. Findings of increased productivity of actinomycin D by Streptomyces plicatus in space corroborated with previous findings for the early sample points (days 8 and 12); however, the flight production levels were lower than the matched ground control samples for the remainder of the mission. The overall goal of this research program is to elucidate the specific mechanisms responsible for the initial stimulation of productivity in space and translate this knowledge into methods for improving efficiency of commercial production facilities on Earth.