Responses of Bacillus subtilis spores to space environment: results from experiments in space

Orig Life Evol Biosph. 1993 Feb;23(1):37-52. doi: 10.1007/BF01581989.


Onboard of several spacecrafts (Apollo 16, Spacelab 1, LDEF), spores of Bacillus subtilis were exposed to selected parameters of space, such as space vacuum, different spectral ranges of solar UV-radiation and cosmic rays, applied separately or in combination, and we have studied their survival and genetic changes after retrieval. The spores survive extended periods of time in space--up to several years--, if protected against the high influx of solar UV-radiation. Water desorption caused by the space vacuum leads to structural changes of the DNA; the consequences are an increased mutation frequency and altered photobiological properties of the spores. UV-effects, such as killing and mutagenesis, are augmented, if the spores are in space vacuum during irradiation. Vacuum-specific photoproducts which are different from the 'spore photoproduct' may cause the synergistic response of spores to the simultaneous action of UV and vacuum. The experiments provide an experimental test of certain steps of the panspermia hypothesis.

MeSH terms

  • Bacillus subtilis / genetics
  • Bacillus subtilis / growth & development*
  • Bacillus subtilis / radiation effects
  • Cosmic Radiation
  • DNA Damage*
  • DNA, Bacterial / radiation effects*
  • Extraterrestrial Environment*
  • Spores, Bacterial / genetics
  • Spores, Bacterial / growth & development*
  • Spores, Bacterial / radiation effects
  • Ultraviolet Rays
  • Vacuum


  • DNA, Bacterial