Bacillus thuringiensis conjugation in simulated microgravity

Elise Beuls, Rob Van Houdt, Natalie Leys, Camelia Dijkstra, Oliver Larkin, Jacques Mahillon, Kristel Mijnendonckx

    Research outputpeer-review


    Spaceflight experiments have suggested a possible effect of microgravity on the plasmid transfer among strains of the Gram-positive Bacillus thuringiensis, as opposed to no effect recorded for Gram-negative conjugation. To investigate these potential effects in a more affordable experimental setup, three ground-based microgravity simulators were tested: the Rotating Wall Vessel (RWV), the Random Positioning Machine (RPM), and a superconducting magnet. The bacterial conjugative system consisted in biparental matings between two B. thuringiensis strains, where the transfer frequencies of the conjugative plasmid pAW63 and its ability to mobilize the nonconjugative plasmid pUB110 were assessed. Specifically, potential plasmid transfers in a 0g position (simulated microgravity) were compared to those obtained under 1g (normal gravity) condition in each device. Statistical analyses revealed no significant difference in the conjugative and mobilizable transfer frequencies between the three different simulated microgravitational conditions and our standard laboratory condition. These important ground-based observations emphasize the fact that, though no stimulation of plasmid transfer was observed, no inhibition was observed either. In the case of Gram-positive bacteria, this ability to exchange plasmids in weightlessness, as occurs under Earth's conditions, should be seen as particularly relevant in the scope of spread of antibiotic resistances and bacterial virulence.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)797-805
    Issue number8
    StatePublished - 21 Oct 2009

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