The Effect of Simulated Microgravity on Bacteria from the Mir Space Station

Publication Title

Microgravity Science and Technology

Publication Date


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simulated microgravity, bacteria, Mir Space Station




The effects of simulated microgravity on two bacterial isolates,Sphingobacterium thalpophiliumandRalstonia pickettii (formerlyBurkholderia pickettii), originally recovered from water systems aboard the Mir space station were examined. These bacteria were inoculated into water, high and low concentrations of nutrient broth and subjected to simulated microgravity conditions.S. thalpophilium (which was motile and had flagella) showed no significant differences between simulated microgravity and the normal gravity control regardless of the method of enumeration and medium. In contrast, forR. pickettii (that was non-motile and lacked flagella), there were significantly higher numbers in high nutrient broth under simulated microgravity compared to normal gravity. Conversely, whenR. pikkettii was inoculated into water (i.e., starvation conditions) significantly lower numbers were found under simulated microgravity compared to normal gravity. Responses to microgravity depended on the strain used (e.g., the motile strain exhibited no response to microgravity, while the non-motile strain did), the method of enumeration, and the nutrient concentration of the medium. Under oligotrophic conditions, non-motile cells may remain in geostationary orbit and deplete nutrients in their vicinity, while in high nutrient medium, resources surrounding the cell may be sufficient so that high growth is observed until nutrients becoming limiting.