The range of bacterial and fungal organisms that live among us is constantly growing – and this is no exception in low-gravity environments, such as the International Space Station (ISS).
Researchers from the United States and India working with NASA have now discovered four strains of bacteria that live in various locations on the International Space Station – three of which, so far, are completely unknown to science.
Three of the four subspecies were isolated in 2015 and 2016 – one was found on the top panel of the International Space Station research stations, and the second was found in domeAnd the third is found on the dining table top; The fourth is found in an old HEPA filter Returned to Earth in 2011.
All four subspecies belong to the family of bacteria found in soil and fresh water. They participate in nitrogen fixation, plant growth, and can help stop plant pathogens. Basically, the good bacteria are all around you if you grow things.
You might wonder what these soil bacteria have been doing along the way in the International Space Station, but the astronauts living on the space station have been growing small amounts of food for years, so it’s not surprising that we found plant-related microbes on board.
One of the strains – the HEPA filter discovery – has been identified as a known species called Methyluroprom rhodesianum. The other three were sequenced and found to all belong to the same previously unspecified species, and the strains were named IF7SW-B2T, IIF1SW-B5, and IIF4SW-B5.
The team, led by University of Southern California geneticist Swati Pilani, suggested calling the new species Methylobacterium total After Ajmal Khan, the famous Indian biodiversity scientist. This new discovery is closely related to an already known species called M. Indica.
“To grow plants in extreme locations where resources are scarce, isolating new microbes that help promote plant growth under stressful conditions is essential,” said two of the team, Kasturi Venkateswaran and Nitin Kumar Singh of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He explained in a press release.
Given that we already know these microbes can withstand the harsh conditions of the International Space Station, the team developed the four strains through genetic analysis to look for genes that could be used to help boost plant growth.
“Synthesis of the complete genome sequences of the three ISS strains mentioned here will enable comparative genomic characterization of ISS isolates with their counterparts from Earth in future studies,” The team writes in their studies.
“This will further aid in identifying the genetic determinants that may be responsible for enhancing plant growth under conditions of microgravity and contributing to the development of self-sustaining plant crops for long-term space missions in the future.”
Researchers found that one of the strains of the International Space Station – IF7SW-B2T – contains promising genes involved in plant growth, including a gene for an enzyme essential for Cytokinin, Which promotes cell division in roots and shoots.
There’s a lot of research to be done here – the researchers admit that they’ve barely scratched the surface of the space station’s microbial diversity. About 1,000 samples have already been collected from the International Space Station, but they are still waiting for their return trip to Earth.
Just imagine the exciting spacefaring microbes that we haven’t discovered yet!
The research has been published in Frontiers in Microbiology.