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Proceedings Paper

Sulfate- and sulfur-reducing bacteria as terrestrial analogs for microbial life on Jupiter's Satellite Io
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Paper Abstract

Observations from the Voyager and Galileo spacecraft have revealed Jupiter's moon Jo to be the most volcanically active body of our Solar System. The Galileo Near Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (NIMS) detected extensive deposits of sulfur compounds, elemental sulfur and SO2 frost on the surface of To. There are extreme temperature variations on Jo' S surface - ranging from -130 °C to over +2000 °C at the Pillan Patera volcanic vent. The active volcanoes, fumaroles, calderas, and lava lakes and vast sulfur deposits on this frozen moon indicate that analogs of sulfur- and sulfate-reducing bacteria might inhabit Jo. Hence Jo may have great significance to Astrobiology. Earth' s life forms that depend on sulfur respiration are members of two domainsBacteria and Archaea. Two basic links of the biogeochemical sulfur cycle of Earth have been studied: a. the sulfur oxidizing process (occurring at aerobic conditions) and b. the process of sulfur-reduction to hydrogen sulfide (anaerobic conditions). Sulfate-reducing bacteria (StRB) and sulfur-reducing bacteria (SrRB) are responsible for anaerobic reducing processes. At the present time the systematics of StRB include over 112 species distributed into 35 genera of Bacteria and Archaea. Moderately thermophilic and mesophilic SrRB belong to the Bacteria. The hyperthermophilic SrRB predominately belong to the domain Archaea and are included in the genera: Pyrodictium, Thermoproteus, Pyrobaculum, Thermophilum, Desulfurococcus, and Thermodiscus. The StRB and SrRB use a wide spectrum of substrates as electron donors for lithotrophic and heterotrophic type nutrition. The electron acceptors for the StRB include: sulfate, thiosulfate, sulfite, sulfur, dithionite, tetrathionate, sulfur monoxide, iron, nitrite, selenite, fumarate, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and chlorinecontaining phenol compounds. The Sulfate- and Sulfur-reducing bacteria are widely distributed in anaerobic ecosystems, including extreme environments like hot springs, deep-sea hydrothermal vents, soda and high salinity lakes, and cryo-environments. Furthermore, the StRB and SrRB have Astrobiological significance as these anaerobic extremophiles may represent the dominant relic life forms that inhabited our planet during the extensive volcanic activity in the Earths early evolutionary period.

Paper Details

Date Published: 5 February 2002
PDF: 23 pages
Proc. SPIE 4495, Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology IV, (5 February 2002); doi: 10.1117/12.492485
Show Author Affiliations
Elena V. Pikuta, Univ. of Alabama in Huntsville (United States)
Richard B. Hoover, NASA Marshall Space Flight Ctr. (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 4495:
Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology IV
Richard B. Hoover; Gilbert V. Levin; Roland R. Paepe; Alexei Yu. Rozanov, Editor(s)

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