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Simulated Micro-, Lunar, and Martian Gravities on Earth—Effects on Escherichia coli Growth, Phenotype, and Sensitivity to Antibiotics


Bacterial behavior has been studied under microgravity conditions, but very little is known about it under lunar and Martian gravitational regimes. An Earth-based approach was designed and implemented using inclined clinostats and an in-house-developed code to determine the optimal clinorotation angular speed for bacterial liquid cultures of 5 RPM. With this setup, growth dynamics, phenotypic changes, and sensitivity to antibiotics (minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) of two different classes of antibiotics) for three Escherichia coli strains (including uropathogenic) were examined under simulated micro-, lunar, and Martian gravities. The results included increased growth under simulated micro- and lunar gravities for some strains, and higher concentrations of antibiotics needed under simulated lunar gravity with respect to simulated micro- and Martian gravities. Clinostat-produced results can be considered suggestive but not determinative of what might be expected in altered gravity, as there is still a need to systematically verify these simulation devices' ability to accurately replicate phenomena observed in space. Nevertheless, this approach serves as a baseline to start interrogating key cellular and molecular aspects relevant to microbial processes on the lunar and Martian surfaces.

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