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The Effect of Microgravity on Mycobacteria (NNX13AM02G)
Principal Investigator
Research Area:
Cell and molecular biology
Radiation biology
Species Studied
Scientific Name: M. marinum Species: Bacteria

The aim of this work is to determine whether mycobacteria have enhanced virulence during space travel and what mechanisms they use to adapt to microgravity. We will use M. marinum as a model mycobacterium species, as its optimal growth is at 30-33°C and it is less problematic in terms of causing serious human infections. M. marinum also infects fish, and this provides a future small animal model for both ground-based studies and possible experiments on the International Space Station. We therefore hypothesize that M. marinum grown under conditions of microgravity will be more infectious in terms of entry and survival inside macrophage cells, and that this will be achieved by altering gene expression to promote survival under stressful conditions. Oxygen has been found to play a role in altering gene expression in Pseudomonas aeruginosa grown during space flight, and Salmonella enterica are more resistance to oxidative stress when grown under microgravity. We hypothesize that genes involved in surviving oxidative stress will be induced in M. marinum grown under microgravity. M. marinum grown under microgravity and normal gravity will be tested for their ability to infect and survive in macrophage, for resistance to hydrogen peroxide and for gene expression changes stimulated by microgravity. Specific mutant strains defective in detoxification processes, damage repair or biofilm formation will also be generated and if time allows will also be tested for survival in macrophage after growth under microgravity. This will further extend our understanding of mycobacteria pathogenicity during space travel and potentially reveal mechanisms to target mycobacterium infections in space and on Earth.

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Camille F Abshire, Kanchanjunga Prasai, Israel Soto, Runhua Shi, Monica Concha, Melody Baddoo, Erik K Flemington, Don G Ennis, Rona S Scott & Lynn Harrison. Exposure of Mycobacterium marinum to low-shear modeled microgravity: effect on growth, the transcriptome and survival under stress. . npj Microgravity 2, Article number: 16038 (2016). [DOI]

Oxidative stress
Stress, psychological

Data Information
Data Availability
Archive is complete. All data sets are on the Web site.
Data Sets + View data.

Colony forming units (CFU)
Expression, gene, oxidative stress, Mycobacterium marinum, RNA-seq and qPCR
Growth rate: bacteria
Optical Density (OD)
Survival, 5 mM hydrogen peroxide, Mycobacterium marinum, colony counts (CFU)
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Mission/Study Information
Mission Launch/Start Date Landing/End Date Duration
Ground 05/01/2009 In Progress

Additional Information
Managing NASA Center
Ames Research Center (ARC)
Responsible NASA Representative
Ames Research Center LSDA Level 3
Project Manager: Sylvain Costes
Institutional Support
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Proposal Date
Proposal Source
2012 Space Biology NNH12Z