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Pressure as a limiting factor for life

Hazael, R; Meersman, F; Ono, F; McMillan, PF; (2016) Pressure as a limiting factor for life. Life , 6 (3) , Article 34. 10.3390/life6030034. Green open access

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Facts concerning the stability and functioning of key biomolecular components suggest that cellular life should no longer be viable above a few thousand atmospheres (200–300 MPa). However, organisms are seen to survive in the laboratory to much higher pressures, extending into the GPa or even tens of GPa ranges. This is causing main questions to be posed concerning the survival mechanisms of simple to complex organisms. Understanding the ultimate pressure survival of organisms is critical for food sterilization and agricultural products conservation technologies. On Earth the deep biosphere is limited in its extent by geothermal gradients but if life forms exist in cooler habitats elsewhere then survival to greater depths must be considered. The extent of pressure resistance and survival appears to vary greatly with the timescale of the exposure. For example, shock experiments on nanosecond timescales reveal greatly enhanced survival rates extending to higher pressure. Some organisms could survive bolide impacts thus allowing successful transport between planetary bodies. We summarize some of the main questions raised by recent results and their implications for the survival of life under extreme compression conditions and its possible extent in the laboratory and throughout the universe.

Type: Article
Title: Pressure as a limiting factor for life
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.3390/life6030034
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/life6030034
Additional information: © 2016 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Keywords: Extreme conditions; high pressure treatment; food technology; protein stability; cell wall biochemistry; bacterial survival; interplanetary transport; seeds; spores; Artemia cysts
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Dept of Chemistry
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1517294
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