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Fungal pathogen shows profound effects from spaceflight

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At Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute, Cheryl Nickerson and her team have been investigating the intriguing effects of spaceflight on microbial pathogens.

In a new paper appearing in the current issue of the journal PLOS ONE, the team reports their recent work examining spaceflight-induced responses in and infectious disease potential of the fungal pathogen, Candida albicans. Lead author Aurélie Crabbé joins a multi-institute collaborative research team in this study, which represents the first global gene expression profiling and phenotypic characterization of a fungal pathogen during spaceflight.

The new study reports the differential regulation of 452 genes in spaceflight-cultured C. albicans, compared to fungal cells cultured under otherwise identical ground-based conditions. The expression of a wide variety of functionally diverse gene families was altered, including those regulating cell aggregation and budding, biofilm formation and resistance to pathogenesis-related stresses and antifungal drugs. In agreement with the gene expression data, C. albicans demonstrated enhanced cell aggregation and a differential budding pattern in response to growth under microgravity conditions.

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