MOMEDOS (Molecular mechanisms of Deinococcus radiodurans survivability in outer space)

Crossing the border of centuries, space technology has provided tools for transporting terrestrial life to space environment to study in situ responses to stress conditions of space. The polyextremophilic bacteria Deinococcus radiodurans has a remarkable ability to tolerate high doses of radiation, being one thousand times more resistant to ionizing radiation than humans and thirty times more resistant than Escherichia coli. Together with extraordinary ability to tolerate long-term desiccation and oxidative stress, this made D. radiodurans a good choice for the space travel. Since May 2015 the dehydrated deinococcal cells have been successfully exposed at the Exposed Facility of the Japanese Experiment Module at the International Space Station (≈400 km) in frames of the Tanpopo (Dandelion) mission. The Tanpopo mission is an orbital project that investigates the possible space transfer of life, organic compounds and possible terrestrial particles in the low Earth orbit. The concept of microbial cell-aggregates as a protective ark for outer space survival of microbes has been verified in frames of the Tanpopo mission. The project “MOMEDOS: Molecular mechanisms of Deinococcus radiodurans survivability in outer space” aims at utilizing an integrative molecular approach to functionally decipher space-induced mechanisms of microbial survivability and DNA/protein damage after a long-term exposure of D. radiodurans to harsh outer space conditions in the Tanpopo mission as well as in ground-based facilities simulating space conditions. MOMEDOS will provide a deeper understanding of mechanisms of microbial survivability in outer space, answering the question not only till which extend but how extremophilic microbes can tolerate drastic space conditions.

We investigate a set of specific molecular players and unique protein targets responsible for the survivability of D. radiodurans in space environment with regard to:

  1. space induced proteomic signatures of D. radiodurans;
  2. expression pattern of genes in response to real and simulated space exposure of D. radiodurans;
  3. metabolite profiling of D. radiodurans exposed to the extreme conditions of real and simulated space environment;
  4. the nature and the role of the extracellular proteinaceous component: the extracellular proteome of D. radiodurans recovering from long-term space exposure/exposure to simulated space conditions.

Molecular characterization of D. radiodurans survivability at low Earth orbit will promote our understanding of supporting and protecting the life in outer space environment.

Kick off meeting of MOMEDOS team held at German Aerospace Centre (DLR), Cologne on January 5th, 2017. (Elke Rabbow, Petra Rettberg (Institute of Aerospace Medicine, DLR) and Tetyana Milojevic, Wolfram Weckwerth and Emanuel Ott (University of Vienna)).

The project “MOMEDOS funded under the Austrian Space Programme ASAP12 of the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG) started in August 2016 and will be finished in July 2019. Project leader and coordinator is Dr. Tetyana Milojevic, Deputy Head of the Department of Biophysical Chemistry at the Faculty of Chemistry, University of Vienna. The project partners are: Tokyo University of Pharmacy and Life Science (Japan), Institute of Aerospace Medicine, German Aerospace Center (DLR), Vienna Metabolomics Centre (ViMe) at the University of Vienna.