Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

Growth, viability, and death of planktonic and biofilm Sphingomonas desiccabilis in simulated martian brines

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

DOI

Open Access permissions

Open

Author(s)

Adam H. Stevens, Delma Childers, Mark Fox-Powell, Natasha Nicholson, Elisha Jhoti, Charles S. Cockell

School/Research organisations

Abstract

Aqueous solutions on Mars are theorized to contain very different ion compositions than those on Earth. To determine the effect of such solutions on typical environmental micro-organisms, which could be released from robotic spacecraft or human exploration activity, we investigated the resistance of Sphingomonas desiccabilis to brines that simulate the composition of martian aqueous environments. S. desiccabilis is a desiccation-resistant, biofilm-forming microbe found in desert crusts. The viability of cells in both planktonic and biofilm forms was measured after exposure to simulated martian brines. Planktonic cells showed a loss of viability over the course of several hours in almost all of the seven brines tested. Biofilms conferred greater resistance to all the brines, including those with low water activity and pH, but even cells in biofilms showed a complete loss of viability in <6 h in the harsher brines and in <2 days in the less harsh brines. One brine, however, allowed the microbes to maintain viability over several days, despite having a water activity and pH lower and ionic strength higher than brines that reduced viability over the same timescales, suggesting important ion-specific effects. These data show that biofilm-forming cells have a greater capacity to resist martian aqueous extremes, but that evaporative or deliquescent brines are likely to be destructive to many organisms over relatively short timescales, with implications for the habitability of Mars and for micro-organisms dispersed by robotic or human explorers.

Close

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-98
Number of pages12
JournalAstrobiology
Volume19
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2019

    Research areas

  • Brines, Desiccation, Extremophile, Halotolerance, Mars

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. Natural analogue constraints on Europa's non-ice surface material

    Fox-Powell, M. G., Osinski, G. R., Applin, D., Stromberg, J. M., Gázquez, F., Cloutis, E., Allender, E. & Cousins, C. R., 16 Jun 2019, In : Geophysical Research Letters. 46, 11, p. 5759-5767 9 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. An ionic limit to life in the deep subsurface

    Payler, S. J., Biddle, J. F., Sherwood Lollar, B., Fox-Powell, M. G., Edwards, T., Ngwenya, B. T., Paling, S. M. & Cockell, C. S., 12 Mar 2019, In : Frontiers in Microbiology. 10, 15 p., 00426.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. Cryogenic silicification of microorganisms in hydrothermal fluids

    Fox-Powell, M. G., Channing, A., Applin, D., Cloutis, E., Preston, L. J. & Cousins, C. R., 15 Sep 2018, In : Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 498, p. 1-8 8 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  4. The UK Centre for Astrobiology: a virtual astrobiology centre. Accomplishments and lessons learned, 2011-2016

    Cockell, C. S., Biller, B., Bryce, C., Cousins, C., Direito, S., Forgan, D., Fox-Powell, M., Harrison, J., Landenmark, H., Nixon, S., Payler, S. J., Rice, K., Samuels, T., Schwendner, P., Stevens, A., Nicholson, N. & Wadsworth, J., 29 Jan 2018, In : Astrobiology. 18, 2, 20 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Related by journal

  1. Evaluation of the Tindouf Basin region in Southern Morocco as an analog site for soil geochemistry on Noachian Mars

    Oberlin, E. A., Claire, M. W. & Kounaves, S., 9 Feb 2018, In : Astrobiology. 18, 8

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Exoplanet biosignatures: a review of remotely detectable signs of life

    Schwieterman, E. W., Kiang, N. Y., Parenteau, M. N., Harman, C. E., DasSarma, S., Fisher, T. M., Arney, G. N., Hartnett, H. E., Reinhard, C. T., Olson, S. L., Meadows, V. S., Cockell, C. S., Walker, S. I., Grenfell, J. L., Hegde, S., Rugheimer, S., Hu, R. & Lyons, T. W., 4 May 2018, In : Astrobiology. First Online, 46 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

  3. Long-term planetary habitability and the carbonate-silicate cycle

    Rushby, A. J., Johnson, M., Mills, B. J. W., Watson, A. J. & Claire, M. W., 1 May 2018, In : Astrobiology. 18, 5, p. 469-480 12 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  4. The UK Centre for Astrobiology: a virtual astrobiology centre. Accomplishments and lessons learned, 2011-2016

    Cockell, C. S., Biller, B., Bryce, C., Cousins, C., Direito, S., Forgan, D., Fox-Powell, M., Harrison, J., Landenmark, H., Nixon, S., Payler, S. J., Rice, K., Samuels, T., Schwendner, P., Stevens, A., Nicholson, N. & Wadsworth, J., 29 Jan 2018, In : Astrobiology. 18, 2, 20 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

ID: 257990254

Top