Domain; Phylum; Class; Order; family Bacterium; Actinobacteria; Actinobacteridae; Actinomycetales; Micrococcaceae [Others may be used. Use NCBI link to find]
Genus species Tersicoccus phoenicis
Description and Significance
Although it has never been discovered in nature, T. phoenicis has been found to thrive on clean room surfaces and equipment at both the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA and the Centre Spatial Guyanais in Kourou, French Guiana. The colonies cultured on TSA growth medium at 30C were circular, yellow, smooth, and regular edged. The mean colony diameter was 1mm. As technology advances we gain the ability to visit far off planets from which we may acquire samples and search for organic life. It is then our responsibility as scientists to uphold the integrity of our findings and take caution to not interfere with the extraterrestrial habitat by inadvertently introducing hardy Earth microbes to the new planets on these missions. Studying microbes found in clean room facilities and discovering more about their means of resistance to sanitation techniques can help improve the methods by which we attempt to eradicate all organic life from these rooms.
Published research in this area is lacking. It is known that the genome is approximately 70.6% G+C content. It is also known that via 16S RNA analysis, T. phoenicis was determined to be is unique enough from its closest relative to be given a novel genus and species.
Cell Structure, Metabolism and Life Cycle
T. phoenicis is gram positive, non-spore forming and non-motile cocci that grows optimally at 30 degrees Celsius. There was no growth above 65 degrees Celsius or below 10 degrees Celsius. The bacterium preferred 0-2% NaCl content and a pH between 6.0 and 7.5. T. phoenicis is also a strict aerobe. It was found to be able to produce oxidase and reduce nitrate. Enzyme activity was detected from esterase and esterase lipase.
Ecology and Pathogenesis
T. phoenicis was discovered thriving on the clean room equipment at both the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA and the Centre Spatial Guyanais in Kourou, French Guiana. T. phoenicis has been found to reduce Nitrate but it has never been found in nature so it cannot be concluded that it has contributions ecologically. Although T. phoenicis has never been found outside of the two clean room facilities, it has been hypothesized that it could be found in nature but is such a weak competetor that it only thrives where other organisms cannot. This organism has not been found to be pathogenic.
1 Vaishampayan, P; Moissl-Eichinger, C; Pukall, R; Schumann, P; Spro, C; Agustus, A; Roberts, A.H.; Namba, G; Cisneros, J; Salmassi, T; Venkateswaran, K. “Description of Tersicoccus phoenicis gen. nov.,sp. nov. isolated from spacecraft assembly clean room environments” International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology. 2013. Volume 63. p. 2463-2471.
Page authored by Laura Harding and Christina Brown, students of Prof. Ned Walker and Kazem Kashefi at Michigan State University.