Can Adaptive Response and Evolution Make Survival of Extremophile Bacteria Possible on Mars?
Paper in proceeding, 2020
The humidity on the surface of the red planet, Mars, drops steeply during the daytime as the temperature rises. In this situation, Martian microorganisms should have the capability to cope with desiccation. Extremophiles are microorganisms that are capable of surviving in extreme environmental conditions. It has previously been shown that a pre-exposure to low levels of either ionizing or non-ionizing radiation can induce resistance against subsequent exposure to high levels of different stressors (e.g. high doses of ionizing radiation) in a wide variety of living systems. Moreover, it has been shown that E. coli bacteria repeatedly exposed to a dose needed for 1% survival, and increasing the dose each time due to increased radioresistance for the same survival (1%), generates extremely radioresistant bacteria through directed evolution. Mortazavi et al. have warned that in a similar manner with extremophiles such as Deinococcus radiodurans, it would be very likely that this type of human-directed radioresistance makes E. coli bacteria resistant to all physical and chemical agents (generation of serious life-threatening micro-organisms). There are reports about the possibility of the existence of microbes in the salty puddles of Mars. On Mars, with its thin atmosphere and lack of the protective magnetic field, higher levels of space radiation cause more genetic mutations. Interestingly, these mutations in bacteria, which can make them resistant against radiation, can also make them resistant against desiccation. Moreover, the adaptive response to radiation in bacteria might play an important role in this process. As stated in a NASA report, the cells in the astronauts will be traversed by multiple protons before exposure to HZE particles. This sequential exposure might significantly increase the resistance against radiation. The same exposure in bacteria might not only induce resistance against the high levels of damage caused by HZEs, but also to other life-threatening factors for bacteria such as desiccation. In this paper, the current understanding of extremophiles and their capability of surviving in extreme environmental conditions as well as current findings about radioadaptive responses in bacteria will be discussed.