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PLoS One. 2016 Nov 2;11(11):e0164359. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0164359. eCollection 2016.

A Molecular Genetic Basis Explaining Altered Bacterial Behavior in Space.

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BioServe Space Technologies, Aerospace Engineering Sciences Dept., University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, United States of America.
Genomic Services Laboratory, HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, Huntsville, AL, United States of America.
Department of Biological Science, University of Alabama in Huntsville, Huntsville, AL, United States of America.


Bacteria behave differently in space, as indicated by reports of reduced lag phase, higher final cell counts, enhanced biofilm formation, increased virulence, and reduced susceptibility to antibiotics. These phenomena are theorized, at least in part, to result from reduced mass transport in the local extracellular environment, where movement of molecules consumed and excreted by the cell is limited to diffusion in the absence of gravity-dependent convection. However, to date neither empirical nor computational approaches have been able to provide sufficient evidence to confirm this explanation. Molecular genetic analysis findings, conducted as part of a recent spaceflight investigation, support the proposed model. This investigation indicated an overexpression of genes associated with starvation, the search for alternative energy sources, increased metabolism, enhanced acetate production, and other systematic responses to acidity-all of which can be associated with reduced extracellular mass transport.

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