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Extremophiles. 2009 Jan;13(1):49-57. doi: 10.1007/s00792-008-0196-0. Epub 2008 Oct 18.

Subcellular integrities in Chroococcidiopsis sp. CCMEE 029 survivors after prolonged desiccation revealed by molecular probes and genome stability assays.

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Department of Biology, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Via della Ricerca Scientifica 1, 00133 Rome, Italy.


Desiccation-tolerant cells must either protect their cellular components from desiccation-induced damage and/or repair it upon rewetting. Subcellular damage to the anhydrobiotic cyanobacterium Chroococcidiopsis sp. CCMEE 029 stored in the desiccated state for 4 years was evaluated at the single-cell level using fluorescent DNA strand breakage labelling, membrane integrity and potential related molecular probes, oxidant-sensing fluorochrome and redox dye. Covalent modifications of dried genomes were assessed by testing their suitability as PCR template. Results suggest that desiccation survivors avoid/and or limit genome fragmentation and genome covalent modifications, preserve intact plasma membranes and phycobiliprotein autofluorescence, exhibit spatially-reduced ROS accumulation and dehydrogenase activity upon rewetting. Damaged cells undergo genome fragmentation, loss of plasma membrane potential and integrity, phycobiliprotein bleaching, whole-cell ROS accumulation and lack respiratory activity upon rewetting. The co-occurrence of live and dead cells within dried aggregates of Chroococcidiopsis confirms that desiccation resistance is not a simple process and that subtle modifications to the cellular milieu are required to dry without dying. It rises also intriguing questions about the triggers of dead cells in response to drying. The capability of desiccation survivors to avoid and/or reduce subcellular damage, shows that protection mechanisms are relevant in the desiccation tolerance of this cyanobacterium.

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