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Drying Bacterial Biosaline Patterns Capable of Vital Reanimation upon Rehydration: Novel Hibernating Biomineralogical Life Formations

AuthorsGómez Gómez, José María; Medina, Jesús ; Hochberg, David ; Mateo-Martí, Eva ; Martínez-Frías, J. ; Rull, Fernando
Issue Date11-Jul-2014
PublisherMary Ann Liebert
CitationAstrobiology, 14(7) : 589-602 (2014)
AbstractWater is the fundamental molecule for life on Earth. Thus, the search for hibernating life-forms in waterless environments is an important research topic for astrobiology. To date, however, the organizational patterns containing microbial life in extremely dry places, such as the deserts of Earth, the Dry Valleys of Antarctica, or Mars analog regolith, have been poorly characterized. Here, we report on the formation of bacterial biosaline self-organized drying patterns formed over plastic surfaces. These emerge during the evaporation of sessile droplets of aqueous NaCl salt 0.15 M solutions containing Escherichia coli cells. In the present study, scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and energy dispersive X-ray spectrometry (EDS) analyses indicated that the bacterial cells and the NaCl in these biosaline formations are organized in a two-layered characteristic 3-D architectural morphology. A thin filmlike top layer formed by NaCl conjugated to, and intermingled with, “mineralized” bacterial cells covers a bottom layer constructed by the bulk of the nonmineralized bacterial cells; both layers have the same morphological pattern. In addition, optical microscopic time-lapsed movies show that the formation of these patterns is a kinetically fast process that requires the coupled interaction between the salt and the bacterial cells. Apparently, this mutual interaction drives the generative process of self-assembly that underlies the drying pattern formation. Most notably, the bacterial cells inside these drying self-assembled patterns enter into a quiescent suspended anhydrobiotic state resistant to complete desiccation and capable of vital reanimation upon rehydration. We propose that these E. coli biosaline drying patterns represent an excellent experimental model for understanding different aspects of anhydrobiosis phenomena in bacteria as well as for revealing the mechanisms of bacterially induced biomineralization, both highly relevant topics for the search of life in extraterrestrial locations. Key Words: Escherichia coli—Self-organized bacterial drying pattern formation—Hibernating life—Biosaline biomineralogical life formations—Anhydrobiosis—Biologically induced biomineralization (BIM). Astrobiology 14, 589–602.
Publisher version (URL)http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/ast.2014.1162
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