Conjugation-mediated plasmid exchange between bacteria grown under space flight conditions

P. De Boever, M. Mergeay, Viacheslav Ilyin, D. Forget-Hanus, Géraldine A. Van der Auwera, Jacques Mahillon

    Research outputpeer-review


    Mobile genetic elements (MGE) such as phages, plasmids and transposons play a crucial role in bacterial adaptation and evolution. These MGE mobilize and reorganize genes within a given genome or between bacterial cells. The impact of space flight conditions on these processes is largely unknown. The Mobilisatsia/Plasmida experiment was set up to investigate the impact of space flight conditions on plasmid-mediated conjugation. The experiment was done aboard the International Space Station during the Soyuz Mission 8S (April 19th until April 30th 2004). An experiment was performed with the Gram-positive Bacillus thuringiensis AND931 (carrying the conjugative plasmid pXO 16), B. thuringiensis 4Q7 (with mobilizable plasmid pC194) andB. thuringiensis GBJ002 (final recipient). A second experiment was carried out with the Gram-negative Escherichia coli CM140 (carrying the conjugative plasmid RP4), E. coli CM1962 (with the mobilizable plasmid pMOL222) and Cupriavidus metallidurans AE815 (final recipient). It was observed by selective platings that plasmid exchange between the Gram-positive bacterial strains occurred in the space flight experiment. It is speculated that the latter plasmid exchange occurs more efficient than in the ground control experiment. No significant differences could be observed between space flight and ground control for the Gram-negative bacteria. The data indicate that plasmid exchange between microorganisms is occurring under space flight conditions. Since microorganisms are endogenous to any spacecraft and their presence considered as a possible jeopardy for manned space exploration, more experiments are needed to evaluate the occurrence and implications of microbial adaptation and evolution via MGE.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)138-144
    Number of pages7
    JournalMicrogravity - Science and Technology
    Issue number5-6
    StatePublished - Sep 2007

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Modelling and Simulation
    • General Engineering
    • General Physics and Astronomy
    • Applied Mathematics

    Cite this