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International Space Station conditions alter genomics, proteomics, and metabolomics in Aspergillus nidulans


The first global genomic, proteomic, and secondary metabolomic characterization of the filamentous fungus Aspergillus nidulans following growth onboard the International Space Station (ISS) is reported. The investigation included the A. nidulans wild-type and three mutant strains, two of which were genetically engineered to enhance secondary metabolite production. Whole genome sequencing revealed that ISS conditions altered the A. nidulans genome in specific regions. In strain CW12001, which features overexpression of the secondary metabolite global regulator laeA, ISS conditions induced the loss of the laeA stop codon. Differential expression of proteins involved in stress response, carbohydrate metabolic processes, and secondary metabolite biosynthesis was also observed. ISS conditions significantly decreased prenyl xanthone production in the wild-type strain and increased asperthecin production in LO1362 and CW12001, which are deficient in a major DNA repair mechanism. These data provide valuable insights into the adaptation mechanism of A. nidulans to spacecraft environments.

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Part of the research described in this publication was carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with NASA. We would like to thank astronauts Tim Peake, Tim Kopra, and Jeff Williams for handling the samples aboard the ISS, the Implementation Team at NASA Ames Research Center, and BioServe Space Technologies for coordinating this effort. © 2018 California Institute of Technology. Government sponsorship acknowledged.

Reference herein to any specific commercial product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise does not constitute or imply its endorsement by the U.S. Government or the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology.


This research was funded by a 2012 Space Biology NNH12ZTT001N grant nos. 19-12829-26 under Task Order NNN13D111T awarded to CW and KV, which also funded JR and AB.

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JR drafted the manuscript, contributed to sample processing, and was responsible for data analysis and interpretation. AB contributed to sample processing and data interpretation. AC and MK conducted protein sample processing, LC/MS analyses, and proteome data processing. YC contributed to secondary metabolic analysis and interpretation. SM contributed to variant analysis. JY generated the CW12001 strain. SC was responsible for sample integration into flight hardware. FK was responsible for project implementation and generating metadata from the ISS. JS contributed to genome data processing and variant analysis. KV and CW designed the study, interpreted the data, and drafted the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Clay C. C. Wang.

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Romsdahl, J., Blachowicz, A., Chiang, A.J. et al. International Space Station conditions alter genomics, proteomics, and metabolomics in Aspergillus nidulans. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 103, 1363–1377 (2019).

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  • Aspergillus nidulans
  • International Space Station
  • Genomics
  • Proteomics
  • Metabolomics