Microgravity Science and Technology

, Volume 19, Issue 5–6, pp 148–153 | Cite as

Survival of microorganisms representing the three Domains of life inside the International Space Station



The present work was mainly focused to study the response of representative non pathogenic microorganisms to the environment inside the space vehicle at different mission stages (10, 56, and 226 days) within the frame of the Italian ENEIDE mission, from Feb to Oct 2005. Microorganisms were chosen according to their phylogenetic position and cell structures; they were representatives of the three taxonomic domains and belonged to different ecosystems (food, soil, intestinal tract, plants, deep-sea). They were the followings: Thermococcus guaymasensis (Domain Archaea); Saccharomyces cerevisiae (Domain Eucarya); Escherichia coli, Bacillus subtilis, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Enterococcus faecium, Pseudomonas fluorescens, and Rhizobium tropici (Domain Bacteria). As main environmental parameters we were interested in: a) space radiations; b) microgravity; c) temperature. The response of microorganisms was investigated in terms of survival rates, cell structure modifications, and genomic damages. The survival of cells was affected by both radiation doses and intrinsec cell features. As expected, only samples kept on the ISS for 226 days showed significant levels of mortality. Asfar as regard the effect on cell structures, these samples showed also remarkable morphological changes, particularly for Escherichia coli, Enterococcus faecium, and Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The data collected allowed to get new insights into the biological traits of microorganisms exposed to space environment during the flight on a spacecraft. Moreover, the result obtained may be important for the improvement of human conditions aboard space vehicles (nutraceuticals for astronauts and disinfections of ISS modules) and also for the potential development of closed systems devoted to vegetable productions and organic recycling.


Archaea Enterococcus Faecium International Space Station Space Radiation Magnetospirillum 
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© Z-Tec Publishing, Bremen 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dept. of Agrobiology and AgrochemistryMarine Microbiology Lab CONISMA and Research Group on ExoAgroBiology, University of TusciaViterboItaly

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