Effects of stratospheric conditions on viability, metabolism and proteome of prokaryotic cells

The application of ultraviolet (UV) radiation to inhibit bacterial growth is based on the principle that the exposure of DNA to UV radiation results in the formation of cytotoxic lesions, leading to inactivation of microorganisms. Herein, we present the impacts of UV radiation on bacterial cultures' properties from the biological, biochemical and molecular biological perspective. For experiments, commercial bacterial cultures (Staphylococcus aureus, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli and Salmonella typhimurium) and isolates from patients with bacterial infections (Proteus mirabilis and Pseudomonas aeruginosa) were employed. The above-mentioned strains were exposed to UV using a laboratory source and to stratospheric UV using a 3D printed probe carried by a stratospheric balloon. The length of flight was approximately two hours, and the probe was enriched by sensors for the external environment (temperature, pressure and relative humidity). After the landing, bacterial cultures were cultivated immediately. Experimental results showed a significant effect of UV radiation (both laboratory UV and UV from the stratosphere) on the growth, reproduction, behavior and structure of bacterial cultures. In all parts of the experiment, UV from the stratosphere showed stronger effects when compared to the effects of laboratory UV. The growth of bacteria was inhibited by more than 50% in all cases; moreover, in the case of P. aeruginosa, the growth was even totally inhibited. Due to the effect of UV radiation, an increased susceptibility of bacterial strains to environmental influences was also observed. By using commercial tests for biochemical markers of Gram-positive and Gram-negative strains, significant disparities in exposed and non-exposed strains were found. Protein patterns obtained using MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry revealed that UV exposure is able to affect the proteins' expression, leading to their downregulation, observed as the disappearance of their peaks from the mass spectrum.
Atmosphere. 2015, vol. 6, issue 9, p. 1290-1306.
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