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Adv Space Res. 1995;16(8):105-18.

Biological responses to space: results of the experiment "Exobiological Unit" of ERA on EURECA I.

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Deutsche Forschungsanstalt fur Luft-und Raumfahrt, Institut fur Luft- und Raumfahrtmedizin, Abteilung Strahlenbiologie, Koln, Germany.


Spores of different strains of Bacillus subtilis and the Escherichia coli plasmid pUC19 were exposed to selected conditions of space (space vacuum and/or defined wavebands and intensities of solar ultraviolet radiation) in the experiment ER 161 "Exobiological Unit" of the Exobiology Radiation Assembly (ERA) on board of the European Retrievable Carrier (EURECA). After the approximately 11 months lasting mission, their responses were studied in terms of survival, mutagenesis in the his (B. subtilis) or lac locus (pUC19), induction of DNA strand breaks, efficiency of DNA repair systems, and the role of external protective agents. The data were compared with those of a simultaneously running ground control experiment. The survival of spores treated with the vacuum of space, however shielded against solar radiation, is substantially increased, if they are exposed in multilayers and/or in the presence of glucose as protective, whereas all spores in "artificial meteorites", i.e. embedded in clays or simulated Martian soil, are killed. Vacuum treatment leads to an increase of mutation frequency in spores, but not in plasmid DNA. Extraterrestrial solar ultraviolet radiation is mutagenic, induces strand breaks in the DNA and reduces survival substantially; however, even at the highest fluences, i.e. 3 x 10(8) J m-2, a small but significant fraction of spores survives the insolation. Action spectroscopy confirms results of previous space experiments of a synergistic action of space vacuum and solar UV radiation with DNA being the critical target.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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