Status Report

Entrapment of Bacteria in Fluid Inclusions in Laboratory-Grown Halite

By SpaceRef Editor
August 22, 2006
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Entrapment of Bacteria in Fluid Inclusions in Laboratory-Grown Halite

Aug 2006, Vol. 6, No. 4: 552-562

Full Paper

Cells of the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which were genetically modified to produce green fluorescent protein, were entrapped in fluid inclusions in laboratory-grown halite. The bacteria were used to inoculate NaCl-saturated aqueous solutions, which were allowed to evaporate and precipitate halite. The number, size, and distribution of fluid inclusions were highly variable, but did not appear to be affected by the presence of the bacteria. Many of the inclusions in crystals from inoculated solutions contained cells in populations ranging from two to 20. Microbial attachment to crystal surfaces was neither evident nor necessary for entrapment. Cells occurred exclusively within fluid inclusions and were not present in the crystal matrix. In both the inclusions and the hypersaline solution, the cells fluoresced and twitched, which indicates that the bacteria might have remained viable after entrapment. The fluorescence continued up to 13 months after entrapment, which indicates that little degradation of the bacteria occurred over that time interval. The entrapment, fluorescence, and preservation of cells were independent of the volume of hypersaline solution used or whether the solutions were completely evaporated prior to crystal extraction. The results of this study have a wide range of implications for the long-term survival of microorganisms in fluid inclusions and their detection through petrography. The results also demonstrate the preservation potential for microbes in hypersaline fluid inclusions, which could allow cells to survive harsh conditions of space, the deep geologic past, or burial in sedimentary basins.

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