Life (Basel). 2021 Mar 27;11(4):283. doi: 10.3390/life11040283.
This report was designed to compare spaceflight-induced cellular and physiological adaptations of Candida albicans cultured in microgravity on the International Space Station across several payloads. C. albicans is a common opportunistic fungal pathogen responsible for a variety of superficial infections as well as systemic and more severe infections in humans. Cumulatively, the propensity of this organism to be widespread through the population, the ability to produce disease in immunocompromised individuals, and the tendency to respond to environmental stress with characteristics associated with increased virulence, require a better understanding of the yeast response to microgravity for spaceflight crew safety. As such, the responses of this yeast cultivated during several missions using two in-flight culture bioreactors were analyzed and compared herein. In general, C. albicans had a slightly shorter generation time and higher growth propensity in microgravity as compared to terrestrial controls. Rates of cell filamentation differed between bioreactors, but were low and not significantly different between flight and terrestrial controls. Viable cells were retrieved and cultured, resulting in a colony morphology that was similar between cells cultivated in flight and in terrestrial control conditions, and in contrast to that previously observed in a ground-based microgravity analog system. Of importance, yeast demonstrated an increased resistance when challenged during spaceflight with the antifungal agent, amphotericin B. Similar levels of resistance were not observed when challenged with the functionally disparate antifungal drug caspofungin. In aggregate, yeast cells cultivated in microgravity demonstrated a subset of characteristics associated with virulence. In addition, and beyond the value of the specific responses of C. albicans to microgravity, this report includes an analysis of biological reproducibility across flight opportunities, compares two spaceflight hardware systems, and includes a summary of general flight and payload timelines.