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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Oct 9;104(41):16299-304. Epub 2007 Sep 27.

Space flight alters bacterial gene expression and virulence and reveals a role for global regulator Hfq.

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  • 1Center for Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology, The Biodesign Institute, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287, USA.

Abstract

A comprehensive analysis of both the molecular genetic and phenotypic responses of any organism to the space flight environment has never been accomplished because of significant technological and logistical hurdles. Moreover, the effects of space flight on microbial pathogenicity and associated infectious disease risks have not been studied. The bacterial pathogen Salmonella typhimurium was grown aboard Space Shuttle mission STS-115 and compared with identical ground control cultures. Global microarray and proteomic analyses revealed that 167 transcripts and 73 proteins changed expression with the conserved RNA-binding protein Hfq identified as a likely global regulator involved in the response to this environment. Hfq involvement was confirmed with a ground-based microgravity culture model. Space flight samples exhibited enhanced virulence in a murine infection model and extracellular matrix accumulation consistent with a biofilm. Strategies to target Hfq and related regulators could potentially decrease infectious disease risks during space flight missions and provide novel therapeutic options on Earth.

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