Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres

, Volume 47, Issue 2, pp 187–202 | Cite as

BIOMEX Experiment: Ultrastructural Alterations, Molecular Damage and Survival of the Fungus Cryomyces antarcticus after the Experiment Verification Tests

  • Claudia Pacelli
  • Laura Selbmann
  • Laura Zucconi
  • Jean-Pierre De Vera
  • Elke Rabbow
  • Gerda Horneck
  • Rosa de la Torre
  • Silvano Onofri


The search for traces of extinct or extant life in extraterrestrial environments is one of the main goals for astrobiologists; due to their ability to withstand stress producing conditions, extremophiles are perfect candidates for astrobiological studies. The BIOMEX project aims to test the ability of biomolecules and cell components to preserve their stability under space and Mars-like conditions, while at the same time investigating the survival capability of microorganisms. The experiment has been launched into space and is being exposed on the EXPOSE-R2 payload, outside of the International Space Station (ISS) over a time-span of 1.5 years. Along with a number of other extremophilic microorganisms, the Antarctic cryptoendolithic black fungus Cryomyces antarcticus CCFEE 515 has been included in the experiment. Before launch, dried colonies grown on Lunar and Martian regolith analogues were exposed to vacuum, irradiation and temperature cycles in ground based experiments (EVT1 and EVT2). Cultural and molecular tests revealed that the fungus survived on rock analogues under space and simulated Martian conditions, showing only slight ultra-structural and molecular damage.

Key words

BIOMEX Cryptoendolithic black fungus DNA damage Mars Space simulations Survival 



Biology and Mars Experiment


Experimental Verification Tests


International Space Station


Lunar analogue


Low-Earth Orbit


Lichen and Fungi Experiment


Original Substrate or Arenaria


Phyllosilicatic Mars Regolith Simulant


Propidium MonoAzide


Random amplification of polymorphic DNA


Sulfatic Mars Regolith Simulant


Scientific Verification Tests


Transmission Electron Microscopy



This research was funded by the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and was supported by the German Helmholtz Association through the Helmholtz-Alliance “Planetary Evolution and Life”. The authors thank DLR (Institute of Aerospace Medicine) for space simulation tests. The PNRA (Italian National Program for Antarctic Research) for supporting Antarctic campaigns for sample collection and research laboratory studies in Italy. The Italian National Antarctic Museum “Felice Ippolito” is kindly acknowledged for funding CCFEE (Culture Collection of Fungi From Extreme Environments). The authors thank PhD. Ruth A. Bryan for English revision.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Claudia Pacelli
    • 1
  • Laura Selbmann
    • 1
  • Laura Zucconi
    • 1
  • Jean-Pierre De Vera
    • 2
  • Elke Rabbow
    • 3
  • Gerda Horneck
    • 3
  • Rosa de la Torre
    • 4
  • Silvano Onofri
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Ecological and Biological Science (DEB)University of TusciaViterboItaly
  2. 2.German Aerospace Center (DLR) BerlinInstitute of Planetary ResearchBerlinGermany
  3. 3.German Aerospace CentreInstitute of Aerospace MedicineKölnGermany
  4. 4.Department of Earth ObservationINTA – National Institute of Aerospace TechniqueMadridSpain

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