Four new strains of bacteria have been discovered on the International Space Station, three of which are completely unknown to scientists.
Researchers from the USA and India, together with the NASA agency, isolated three of these four strains in 2015 and 2016. One was found on the top plate of the MSS, the other in the dome (observatory), and the third on the surface of the table. The fourth strain was found in an old filter that was returned to Earth in 2011.
Astronauts have been growing smaller amounts of food on the space station for years, so it’s no wonder that plant microbes were found there, writes Science Alert.
The bacteria found in the filter belong to the already known strain Methylorubrum rhodesianum. However, after sequencing the remaining three strains, it was determined that they all belong to the same, previously unidentified species.
Geneticist Swati Bijlani from the University of Southern California and his colleagues suggested that this new species of bacterium be named Methylobacterium ajmalii after Ajmal Khan, a well-known Indian scientist.
“Growing plants in extreme places with minimal resources requires the isolation of new microbes that help plants grow in stressful conditions,” explained geneticists Kasturi Venkatesvaran and Nitin Kumar Singh of JPL, a NASA institute.
Since we already know that these microbes can survive severe conditions on the ISS, scientists have conducted genetic analysis on these four strains to identify genes that could be used to stimulate plant growth.
They found that one of the strains, IF7SW-B2T, has genes involved in plant growth. Among them is the one that encourages cell division in roots and shoots.