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

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.

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Acknowledgments

We thank the staff at the European Space Agency for the provision and operations of the EXPOSE-E facility and Thomas Berger for the cosmic ray dosimetry data. We also thank to the Italian National Program of Antarctic Researches and Italian National Antarctic Museum “Felice Ippolito” for funding collection of Antarctic samples and strains and samples analyses.

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Correspondence to Giuliano Scalzi.

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Patrizia Albertano died on March, 14th 2012. She fully contributed to the manuscript with her research, and writing, until her death.

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Scalzi, G., Selbmann, L., Zucconi, L. et al. LIFE Experiment: Isolation of Cryptoendolithic Organisms from Antarctic Colonized Sandstone Exposed to Space and Simulated Mars Conditions on the International Space Station. Orig Life Evol Biosph 42, 253–262 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11084-012-9282-5

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Keywords

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