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Proceedings Paper

Cryoprotection from lipoteichoic acid
Author(s): Charles V. Rice; Amy Middaugh; Jason R. Wickham; Anthony Friedline; Kieth J. Thomas III; Karen Johnson; Malcolm Zachariah; Ravindranth Garimella
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Paper Abstract

Numerous chemical additives lower the freezing point of water, but life at sub-zero temperatures is sustained by a limited number of biological cryoprotectants. Antifreeze proteins in fish, plants, and insects provide protection to a few degrees below freezing. Microbes have been found to survive at even lower temperatures, and with a few exceptions, antifreeze proteins are missing. Survival has been attributed to external factors, such as the high salt concentration of brine veins and adhesion to particulates or ice crystal defects. We have discovered an endogenous cryoprotectant in the cell wall of bacteria, lipoteichoic acid biopolymers. Adding 1% LTA to bacteria cultures immediately prior to freezing provides 50% survival rate, similar to the results obtained with 1% glycerol. In the absence of an additive, bacterial survival is negligible as measured with the resazurin cell viability assay. The mode of action for LTA cryoprotection is unknown. With a molecular weight of 3-5 kDa, it is unlikely to enter the cell cytoplasm. Our observations suggest that teichoic acids could provide a shell of liquid water around biofilms and planktonic bacteria, removing the need for brine veins to prevent bacterial freezing.

Paper Details

Date Published: 15 October 2012
PDF: 9 pages
Proc. SPIE 8521, Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology XV, 85210I (15 October 2012); doi: 10.1117/12.970517
Show Author Affiliations
Charles V. Rice, The Univ. of Oklahoma (United States)
Amy Middaugh, The Univ. of Oklahoma (United States)
Jason R. Wickham, The Univ. of Oklahoma (United States)
Anthony Friedline, The Univ. of Oklahoma (United States)
Kieth J. Thomas III, The Univ. of Oklahoma (United States)
Karen Johnson, The Univ. of Oklahoma (United States)
Malcolm Zachariah, The Univ. of Oklahoma (United States)
Ravindranth Garimella, The Univ. of Oklahoma (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 8521:
Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology XV
Richard B. Hoover; Gilbert V. Levin; Alexei Yu. Rozanov; Paul C. W. Davies, Editor(s)

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