Special Issue "Anaerobic Microorganisms in Mars"

A special issue of Microorganisms (ISSN 2076-2607). This special issue belongs to the section "Environmental Microbiology".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 July 2019

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Dr. Felipe Gómez

Centro de Astrobiologia (INTA-CSIC), Torrejon de Ardoz, Madrid 28850 Spain
Website | E-Mail
Interests: Astrobiology, Mars, Habitability, Anaerobes, Martian Life

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Space exploration missions to Mars, such as the Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity rover), have confirmed the past presence of water as well as habitability conditions on Mars. At the same time, methane plumes on the red planet identified by several authors (e.g. Formisano, MSL-Curiosity mission) open the question about the potential for life to exist on Mars. The presence of methane is an open and unsolved question. Methane gas at the Martian surface has a shorter lifetime; therefore, its presence must be sustained by the regular production of methane by some source. Could it be of biological origin? At this moment, we are in the condition to debate about the real-life potential to exist on Mars. From a metabolic point of view, anaerobic microorganisms open the possibility of an ecological niche on the Mars subsurface.

This special issue on anaerobic microorganisms in Mars opens the debate about the real possibilities of a metabolic niche in Mars. Articles containing experiments run on simulation chambers, Earth analogues, and discussions of Martian habitability are welcome.

Dr. Felipe Gómez
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

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Published Papers (3 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle The Microbial Community of a Terrestrial Anoxic Inter-Tidal Zone: A Model for Laboratory-Based Studies of Potentially Habitable Ancient Lacustrine Systems on Mars
Microorganisms 2018, 6(3), 61; https://doi.org/10.3390/microorganisms6030061
Received: 21 May 2018 / Revised: 18 June 2018 / Accepted: 21 June 2018 / Published: 30 June 2018
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (2607 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Abstract
Evidence indicates that Gale crater on Mars harboured a fluvio-lacustrine environment that was subjected to physio-chemical variations such as changes in redox conditions and evaporation with salinity changes, over time. Microbial communities from terrestrial environmental analogues sites are important for studying such potential [...] Read more.
Evidence indicates that Gale crater on Mars harboured a fluvio-lacustrine environment that was subjected to physio-chemical variations such as changes in redox conditions and evaporation with salinity changes, over time. Microbial communities from terrestrial environmental analogues sites are important for studying such potential habitability environments on early Mars, especially in laboratory-based simulation experiments. Traditionally, such studies have predominantly focused on microorganisms from extreme terrestrial environments. These are applicable to a range of Martian environments; however, they lack relevance to the lacustrine systems. In this study, we characterise an anoxic inter-tidal zone as a terrestrial analogue for the Gale crater lake system according to its chemical and physical properties, and its microbiological community. The sub-surface inter-tidal environment of the River Dee estuary, United Kingdom (53°21′15.40″ N, 3°10′24.95″ W) was selected and compared with available data from Early Hesperian-time Gale crater, and temperature, redox, and pH were similar. Compared to subsurface ‘groundwater’-type fluids invoked for the Gale subsurface, salinity was higher at the River Dee site, which are more comparable to increases in salinity that likely occurred as the Gale crater lake evolved. Similarities in clay abundance indicated similar access to, specifically, the bio-essential elements Mg, Fe and K. The River Dee microbial community consisted of taxa that were known to have members that could utilise chemolithoautotrophic and chemoorganoheterotrophic metabolism and such a mixed metabolic capability would potentially have been feasible on Mars. Microorganisms isolated from the site were able to grow under environment conditions that, based on mineralogical data, were similar to that of the Gale crater’s aqueous environment at Yellowknife Bay. Thus, the results from this study suggest that the microbial community from an anoxic inter-tidal zone is a plausible terrestrial analogue for studying habitability of fluvio-lacustrine systems on early Mars, using laboratory-based simulation experiments. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Anaerobic Microorganisms in Mars)
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Open AccessArticle Non-Psychrophilic Methanogens Capable of Growth Following Long-Term Extreme Temperature Changes, with Application to Mars
Microorganisms 2018, 6(2), 34; https://doi.org/10.3390/microorganisms6020034
Received: 26 March 2018 / Revised: 13 April 2018 / Accepted: 16 April 2018 / Published: 23 April 2018
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (3022 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Abstract
Although the martian environment is currently cold and dry, geomorphological features on the surface of the planet indicate relatively recent (<4 My) freeze/thaw episodes. Additionally, the recent detections of near-subsurface ice as well as hydrated salts within recurring slope lineae suggest potentially habitable [...] Read more.
Although the martian environment is currently cold and dry, geomorphological features on the surface of the planet indicate relatively recent (<4 My) freeze/thaw episodes. Additionally, the recent detections of near-subsurface ice as well as hydrated salts within recurring slope lineae suggest potentially habitable micro-environments within the martian subsurface. On Earth, microbial communities are often active at sub-freezing temperatures within permafrost, especially within the active layer, which experiences large ranges in temperature. With warming global temperatures, the effect of thawing permafrost communities on the release of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane becomes increasingly important. Studies examining the community structure and activity of microbial permafrost communities on Earth can also be related to martian permafrost environments, should life have developed on the planet. Here, two non-psychrophilic methanogens, Methanobacterium formicicum and Methanothermobacter wolfeii, were tested for their ability to survive long-term (~4 year) exposure to freeze/thaw cycles varying in both temperature and duration, with implications both for climate change on Earth and possible life on Mars. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Anaerobic Microorganisms in Mars)
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Open AccessBrief Report Effect of UVC Radiation on Hydrated and Desiccated Cultures of Slightly Halophilic and Non-Halophilic Methanogenic Archaea: Implications for Life on Mars
Microorganisms 2018, 6(2), 43; https://doi.org/10.3390/microorganisms6020043
Received: 11 April 2018 / Revised: 30 April 2018 / Accepted: 10 May 2018 / Published: 12 May 2018
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (259 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Methanogens have been considered models for life on Mars for many years. In order to survive any exposure at the surface of Mars, methanogens would have to endure Martian UVC radiation. In this research, we irradiated hydrated and desiccated cultures of slightly halophilic [...] Read more.
Methanogens have been considered models for life on Mars for many years. In order to survive any exposure at the surface of Mars, methanogens would have to endure Martian UVC radiation. In this research, we irradiated hydrated and desiccated cultures of slightly halophilic Methanococcus maripaludis and non-halophilic Methanobacterium formicicum for various time intervals with UVC (254 nm) radiation. The survivability of the methanogens was determined by measuring methane concentrations in the headspace gas samples of culture tubes after re-inoculation of the methanogens into their growth-supporting media following exposure to UVC radiation. Hydrated M. maripaludis survived 24 h of UVC exposure, while in a desiccated condition they endured for 16 h. M. formicicum also survived UVC radiation for 24 h in a liquid state; however, in a desiccated condition, the survivability of M. formicicum was only 12 h. Some of the components of the growth media could have served as shielding agents that protected cells from damage caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation. Overall, these results suggest that limited exposure (12–24 h) to UVC radiation on the surface of Mars would not necessarily be a limiting factor for the survivability of M. maripaludis and M. formicicum. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Anaerobic Microorganisms in Mars)
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