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Lichens Survive in Space: Results from the 2005 LICHENS Experiment

Sancho, Leopoldo G. and de la Torre, Rosa and Horneck, Gerda and Ascaso, Carmen and de los Rios, Asuncion and Pintado, Ana and Wierzchos, J. and Schuster, M. (2007) Lichens Survive in Space: Results from the 2005 LICHENS Experiment. Astrobiology, 7 (3), pp. 443-454. Mary Ann Liebert Inc.. doi: 10.1089/ast.2006.0046.

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Abstract

This experiment was aimed at establishing, for the first time, the survival capability of lichens exposed to space conditions. In particular, the damaging effect of various wavelengths of extraterrestrial solar UV radiation was studied. The lichens used were the bipolar species Rhizocarpon geographicum and Xanthoria elegans, which were collected above 2000 m in the mountains of central Spain and as endolithic communities inhabiting granites in the Antarctic Dry Valleys. Lichens were exposed to space in the BIOPAN-5 facility of the European Space Agency; BIOPAN-5 is located on the outer shell of the Earth-orbiting FOTON-M2 Russian satellite. The lichen samples were launched from Baikonur by a Soyuz rocket on May 31, 2005, and were returned to Earth after 16 days in space, at which time they were tested for survival. Chlorophyll fluorescence was used for the measurement of photosynthetic parameters. Scanning electron microscopy in back-scattered mode, low temperature scanning electron microscopy, and transmission electron microscopy were used to study the organization and composition of both symbionts. Confocal laser scanning microscopy, in combination with the use of specific fluorescent probes, allowed for the assessment of the physiological state of the cells. All exposed lichens, regardless of the optical filters used, showed nearly the same photosynthetic activity after the flight as measured before the flight. Likewise, the multimicroscopy approach revealed no detectable ultrastructural changes in most of the algal and fungal cells of the lichen thalli, though a greater proportion of cells in the flight samples had compromised membranes, as revealed by the LIVE/DEAD BacLight Bacterial Viability Kit. These findings indicate that most lichenized fungal and algal cells can survive in space after full exposure to massive UV and cosmic radiation, conditions proven to be lethal to bacteria and other microorganisms. The lichen upper cortex seems to provide adequate protection against solar radiation. Moreover, after extreme dehydration induced by high vacuum, the lichens proved to be able to recover, in full, their metabolic activity within 24 hours.

Item URL in elib:https://elib.dlr.de/52968/
Document Type:Article
Title:Lichens Survive in Space: Results from the 2005 LICHENS Experiment
Authors:
AuthorsInstitution or Email of AuthorsAuthor's ORCID iD
Sancho, Leopoldo G.Departamento de Biología Vegetal II, Universidad Complutense, Madrid, SpainUNSPECIFIED
de la Torre, RosaInstituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial, Torrejón, Madrid, SpainUNSPECIFIED
Horneck, GerdaUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Ascaso, CarmenCentro de Ciencias Medioambientales, CSIC, Madrid, SpainUNSPECIFIED
de los Rios, AsuncionCentro de Ciencias Medioambientales, CSIC, Madrid, SpainUNSPECIFIED
Pintado, AnaDepartamento de Biología Vegetal II, Universidad Complutense, Madrid, SpainUNSPECIFIED
Wierzchos, J.Servei de Microscopia Electrónica, Universitat de Lleida, SpainUNSPECIFIED
Schuster, M.Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Ökophysiologie der Pflanzen, Erlangen, GermanyUNSPECIFIED
Date:2007
Journal or Publication Title:Astrobiology
Refereed publication:Yes
Open Access:No
Gold Open Access:No
In SCOPUS:No
In ISI Web of Science:Yes
Volume:7
DOI :10.1089/ast.2006.0046
Page Range:pp. 443-454
Publisher:Mary Ann Liebert Inc.
Status:Published
Keywords:Extraterrestrial Solar UV Radiation, Lichens, BIOPAN-5
HGF - Research field:Aeronautics, Space and Transport (old)
HGF - Program:Space (old)
HGF - Program Themes:W FR - Forschung unter Weltraumbedingungen (old)
DLR - Research area:Space
DLR - Program:W FR - Forschung unter Weltraumbedingungen
DLR - Research theme (Project):W - Vorhaben Strahlenbiologie (old)
Location: Köln-Porz
Institutes and Institutions:Institute of Aerospace Medicine > Radiation Biology
Deposited By: Kopp, Kerstin
Deposited On:21 Jan 2008
Last Modified:27 Apr 2009 14:40

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