Microbial antibiotic production aboard the International Space Station
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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.
KeywordsPacked Cell Volume International Space Station Space Flight Ground Control Secondary Metabolite Production
This work was jointly supported by BioServe Space Technologies at the University of Colorado, Boulder, under NASA Cooperative Agreement NCC8-242, and Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharmaceutical Research Institute. Additional support for postflight analyses was provided by the Center for Faculty Development, University of Colorado, Denver. The authors would also like to thank Dr. Michael A. Poss for his support of this study and Brian Peters for his assistance with medium preparation.
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