UV Photochemistry of DNA In Vitro and in Bacillus subtilis Spores at Earth-Ambient and Low Atmospheric Pressure: Implications for Spore Survival on Other Planets or Moons in the Solar System
Two major parameters influencing the survival of Bacillus subtilis spores in space and on bodies within the Solar System are UV radiation and vacuum, both of which induce inactivating damage to DNA. To date, however, spore survival and DNA photochemistry have been explored only at the extremes of Earth-normal atmospheric pressure (101.3 kPa) and at simulated space vacuum (10-3-10-6 Pa). In this study, wild-type spores, mutant spores lacking α/β-type small, acid-soluble spore proteins (SASP), naked DNA, and complexes between SASP SspC and DNA were exposed simultaneously to UV (254 nm) at intermediate pressure (1-2 Pa), and the UV photoproducts cis,syn-thymine-thymine cyclobutane dimer (c,sTT), trans,syn-thymine-thymine cyclobutane dimer (t,sTT), and "spore photoproduct" (SP) were quantified. At 101.3 kPa, UV-treated wild-type spores accumulated only SP, but spores treated with UV radiation at 1-2 Pa exhibited a spectrum of DNA damage similar to that of spores treated at 10-6 Pa, with accumulation of SP, c,sTT, and t,sTT. The presence or absence of α/β-type SASP in spores was partly responsible for the shift observed between levels of SP and c,sTT, but not t,sTT. The changes observed in spore DNA photochemistry at 1-2 Pa in vivo were not reproduced by irradiation of naked DNA or SspC:DNA complexes in vitro, suggesting that factors other than SASP are involved in spore DNA photochemistry at low pressure.