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The medium is the message: Manipulating salmonella in spaceflight curtails infectiousness
Date:12/12/2008

the hypothesis that ionic concentrations present in the M9 medium played a role in virulence reduction, a hybridized culture media known as LB-M9 was prepared for the March 2008 mission, consisting of the LB formula supplemented with five ions occurring in the M9 medium, but which were found to be at lower concentrations in LB. Bacteria cultured with LB-M9 again displayed a decreased virulence in response to microgravity. Subsequent bioreactor studies conducted by Nickerson's team on earth have hinted that phosphate ions may be a principle component of the observed virulence reduction.

One of Nickerson's most intriguing findings involves a specific RNA-binding protein known as Hfq, which appears to regulate central aspects of S. typhimurium's response to the spaceflight environment, acting as a "global molecular master switch." Hfq is known to regulate one third of the 167 differentially expressed genes in the spaceflight LB cultures. Interestingly, a large number of Hfq-regulated genes were also found to be differentially expressed in the M9 flight samples. In addition to Hfq's known properties as a virulence factor, the protein also acts to regulate ion response pathways,and has been associated with phosphate regulation. Moreover, Hfq appears to be an evolutionarily conserved regulatory factor, and may serve to globally modify bacterial responses to microgravity, regardless of the phenotypic outcomea decrease in virulence for M9 cultures grown in microgravity environments and an increase for bacteria steeped in the LB medium.

But what was causing Salmonella to undergo such a dramatic transformation under conditions of microgravity? At least part of the answer, Nickerson believes, is related to the mechanical forces exerted upon the bacterial cell's membrane by the growth conditionsa property known as fluid shear. Specifically, the microgravity conditions aboard the space shuttle produce a condition of reduced fluid shear, an effect th
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Contact: Joe Caspermeyer
joseph.caspermeyer@asu.edu
480-727-0369
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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