Mars

Development of Sensitive Methods for the Detection of Minimum Concentrations of DNA on Martian Soil Simulants

By Keith Cowing
Status Report
Life
November 6, 2023
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Development of Sensitive Methods for the Detection of Minimum Concentrations of DNA on Martian Soil Simulants
Several methods used for the quantification of DNA are based on UV absorbance or the fluorescence of complexes with intercalator dyes. Most of these intercalators are used in gels to visualize DNA and its structural integrity. — Life

Several methods used for the quantification of DNA are based on UV absorbance or the fluorescence of complexes with intercalator dyes.

Most of these intercalators are used in gels to visualize DNA and its structural integrity.

Due to many extraterrestrial samples, such as meteorites or comets, which are likely to contain very small amounts of biological material, and because the ability to detect this material is crucial for understanding the origin and evolution of life in the universe, the development of assays that can detect DNA at low limits and withstand the rigors of space exploration is a pressing need in the field of astrobiology.

In this study, we present a comparison of optimized protocols used for the fast and accurate quantification of DNA using common intercalator dyes. The sensitivity of assays exceeded that generated by any commercial kit and allowed for the accurate quantification of minimum concentrations of DNA.

The methods were successful when applied to the detection and measurement of DNA spiked on soil samples. Furthermore, the impact of UV radiation as a harsh condition on the surface of Mars was assessed by DNA degradation and this was also confirmed by gel electrophoresis. Overall, the methods described provide economical, simple-step, and efficient approaches for the detection of DNA and can be used in future planetary exploration missions as tests used for the extraction of nucleic acid biosignatures.

Yongda Li, Keith D. Rochfort, David Collins and Konstantinos Grintzalis
Life 2023, 13(10), 1999; DOI: 10.3390/life13101999
https://www.mdpi.com/2075-1729/13/10/1999
Astrobiology

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻