The Effect of Spaceflight on Growth of Ulocladium chartarum Colonies on the International Space Station

The objectives of this 14 days experiment were to investigate the effect of spaceflight on the growth of Ulocladium chartarum, to study the viability of the aerial and submerged mycelium and to put in evidence changes at the cellular level. U. chartarum was chosen for the spaceflight experiment because it is well known to be involved in biodeterioration of organic and inorganic substrates covered with organic deposits and expected to be a possible contaminant in Spaceships. Colonies grown on the International Space Station (ISS) and on Earth were analysed post-flight.

This study clearly indicates that U. chartarum is able to grow under spaceflight conditions developing, as a response, a complex colony morphotype never mentioned previously. We observed that spaceflight reduced the rate of growth of aerial mycelium, but stimulated the growth of submerged mycelium and of new microcolonies. In Spaceships and Space Stations U. chartarum and other fungal species could find a favourable environment to grow invasively unnoticed in the depth of surfaces containing very small amount of substrate, posing a risk factor for biodegradation of structural components, as well as a direct threat for crew health. The colony growth cycle of U. chartarum provides a useful eukaryotic system for the study of fungal growth under spaceflight conditions.