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Proceedings Paper

Great Salt Lake halophilic microorganisms as models for astrobiology: evidence for desiccation tolerance and ultraviolet irradiation resistance
Author(s): Bonnie K. Baxter; Breanne Eddington; Misty R. Riddle; Tabitha N. Webster; Brian J. Avery
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Paper Abstract

Great Salt Lake (GSL) is home to halophiles, salt-tolerant Bacteria and Archaea, which live at 2-5M NaCl. In addition to salt tolerance, GSL halophiles exhibit resistance to both ultraviolet (UV) irradiation and desiccation. First, to understand desiccation resistance, we sought to determine the diversity of GSL halophiles capable of surviving desiccation in either recently formed GSL halite crystals or GSL Artemia (brine shrimp) cysts. From these desiccated environments, surviving microorganisms were cultured and isolated, and genomic DNA was extracted from the individual species for identification by 16S rRNA gene homology. From the surface-sterilized cysts we also extracted DNA of the whole microbial population for non-cultivation techniques. We amplified the archaeal or bacterial 16S rRNA gene from all genomic DNA, cloned the cyst population amplicons, and sequenced. These sequences were compared to gene databases for determination of closest matched species. Interestingly, the isolates from the crystal dissolution are distinct from those previously isolated from GSL brine. The cyst population results reveal species not found in crystals or brine, and may indicate microorganisms that live as endosymbionts of this hypersaline arthropod. Second, we explored UV resistance in a GSL haloarchaea species, "H. salsolis." This strain resists UV irradiation an order of magnitude better than control species, all of which have intact repair systems. To test the hypothesis that halophiles have a photoprotection system, which prevents DNA damage from occurring, we designed an immunoassay to detect thymine dimers following UV irradiation. "H. salsolis" showed remarkable resistance to dimer formation. Evidence for both UV and desiccation resistance in these salt-tolerant GSL halophiles makes them well-suited as models for Astrobiological studies in pursuit of questions about life beyond earth.

Paper Details

Date Published: 3 October 2007
PDF: 10 pages
Proc. SPIE 6694, Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology X, 669415 (3 October 2007); doi: 10.1117/12.732621
Show Author Affiliations
Bonnie K. Baxter, Westminster College (United States)
Breanne Eddington, Westminster College (United States)
Misty R. Riddle, Westminster College (United States)
Tabitha N. Webster, Westminster College (United States)
Brian J. Avery, Westminster College (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 6694:
Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology X
Richard B. Hoover; Gilbert V. Levin; Alexei Y. Rozanov; Paul C. W. Davies, Editor(s)

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