Current Genetics

, Volume 61, Issue 3, pp 335–345 | Cite as

Rock black fungi: excellence in the extremes, from the Antarctic to space

  • Laura SelbmannEmail author
  • Laura Zucconi
  • Daniela Isola
  • Silvano Onofri
Research Article


This work focuses on rock-inhabiting fungi (RIF) of Antarctic rocky deserts, considered the closest to a possible Martian habitat, as the best example of adaptation to the extremes. The study of RIF ecophysiology, resistance and adaptation provides tools that shed light on the evolution of extremophily. These studies also help define the actual limits for life and provide insight for investigating its existence beyond our planet. The scientific results obtained from over 20 years of research on the biodiversity, phylogeny and evolution toward extremotolerance reviewed here demonstrate how these fascinating organisms can withstand conditions well beyond those in their natural environment. A final focus is given on results and perspectives arising from a recent proteomic approach, and from astrobiological experiments and their significance for future space exploration. These studies demonstrate that Antarctic RIF offer an excellent opportunity to investigate many basic, but also applicative areas of research on extremophily.


Adaptation Astrobiology Antarctica Fungal collection Extremophily Extremotolerance Rock black fungi Stress 



The authors are grateful to Dr. Steven Emslie (University of North Carolina Wilmington) for accurate English revision of the text. This work is in the framework of the Italian National Program for Antarctic Researches (PNRA), at present funded by two projects (PROP09_68 and 2013/AZ1.17). The Italian National Antarctic Museum “Felice Ippolito” is kindly acknowledged for funding CCFEE (Culture Collection of Fungi From Extreme Environments). The ESA projects LIFE and BIOMEX and the ASI projects DC-MIC-2011-036 and DC-MIC-2011-036 are also acknowledged for supporting research in astrobiology. This review was supported by a grant from the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) of Brazil # 2014/01229-4.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laura Selbmann
    • 1
    Email author
  • Laura Zucconi
    • 1
  • Daniela Isola
    • 1
  • Silvano Onofri
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Ecological and Biological Sciences (DEB)University of TusciaViterboItaly

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