Mineralization and Preservation of an extremotolerant Bacterium Isolated from an Early Mars Analog Environment

Abstract : The artificial mineralization of a polyresistant bacterial strain isolated from an acidic, oligotrophic lake was carried out to better understand microbial (i) early mineralization and (ii) potential for further fossilisation. Mineralization was conducted in mineral matrixes commonly found on Mars and Early-Earth, silica and gypsum, for 6 months. Samples were analyzed using microbiological (survival rates), morphological (electron microscopy), biochemical (GC-MS, Microarray immunoassay, Rock-Eval) and spectroscopic (EDX, FTIR, RAMAN spectroscopy) methods. We also investigated the impact of physiological status on mineralization and long-term fossilisation by exposing cells or not to Mars-related stresses (desiccation and radiation). Bacterial populations remained viable after 6 months although the kinetics of mineralization and cell-mineral interactions depended on the nature of minerals. Detection of biosignatures strongly depended on analytical methods, successful with FTIR and EDX but not with RAMAN and immunoassays. Neither influence of stress exposure, nor qualitative and quantitative changes of detected molecules were observed as a function of mineralization time and matrix. Rock-Eval analysis suggests that potential for preservation on geological times may be possible only with moderate diagenetic and metamorphic conditions. The implications of our results for microfossil preservation in the geological record of Earth as well as on Mars are discussed. Redrawing the history of early life on Earth requires being able to assess if microstructures present in the oldest terrestrial rocks are of biological origin or not. Such assessments are still very challenging mainly due to the degradation of microbial remains during diagenesis and to microbial-like morphologies abiotically produced. Several Archaean rocks could nevertheless be described as ancient unambiguous biological systems, representative of the early-Earth fossil record, like strata of South Africa and Australia containing evidence of phototrophic 1–6 and heterotrophic microbial. To better understand the processes leading to microfossil formation and preservation, artificial mineralization of microorganisms, also called fossilisation, was first undertaken by Oehler and Schopf with the silicification of
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F. Gaboyer, Claude Le Milbeau, M. Bohmeier, P. Schwendner, P. Vannier, et al.. Mineralization and Preservation of an extremotolerant Bacterium Isolated from an Early Mars Analog Environment. Scientific Reports, Nature Publishing Group, 2017, 7 ( 8775), 14 p. ⟨10.1038/s41598-017-08929-4⟩. ⟨insu-01583121⟩

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