Modeled microgravity alters lipopolysaccharide and outer membrane vesicle production of the beneficial symbiont Vibrio fischeri

NPJ Microgravity. 2021 Mar 8;7(1):8. doi: 10.1038/s41526-021-00138-8.


Reduced gravity, or microgravity, can have a pronounced impact on the physiology of animals, but the effects on their associated microbiomes are not well understood. Here, the impact of modeled microgravity on the shedding of Gram-negative lipopolysaccharides (LPS) by the symbiotic bacterium Vibrio fischeri was examined using high-aspect ratio vessels. LPS from V. fischeri is known to induce developmental apoptosis within its symbiotic tissues, which is accelerated under modeled microgravity conditions. In this study, we provide evidence that exposure to modeled microgravity increases the amount of LPS released by the bacterial symbiont in vitro. The higher rates of shedding under modeled microgravity conditions are associated with increased production of outer-membrane vesicles (OMV), which has been previously correlated to flagellar motility. Mutants of V. fischeri defective in the production and rotation of their flagella show significant decreases in LPS shedding in all treatments, but levels of LPS are higher under modeled microgravity despite loss of motility. Modeled microgravity also appears to affect the outer-membrane integrity of V. fischeri, as cells incubated under modeled microgravity conditions are more susceptible to cell-membrane-disrupting agents. These results suggest that, like their animal hosts, the physiology of symbiotic microbes can be altered under microgravity-like conditions, which may have important implications for host health during spaceflight.