Application of Whole Genome Sequencing and Maldi-Tof to Identification of Bacillus Species Isolated from Cleanrooms at Nasa Johnson Space Center

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Astromaterial cleanrooms at NASA Johnson Space Center are built environments that hold samples, such as lunar rocks, from different space exploration missions. Bacillus sp. are frequently detected in routine microbial monitoring of these facilities. Since this, and related genera, can form endospores that can withstand harsh conditions, they could contaminate astromaterials. This could confound searches for extraterrestrial life. Whole genome sequencing (WGS) is widely used for identifying bacterial strains and tracking their source; however, WGS is expensive and time consuming. Matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization– time of flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF) shows promise as a low-cost, rapid method of identifying strains of bacteria, but few studies have compared this proteomics method to WGS. To evaluate a high throughput method of tracking the source of contamination of this built environment, WGS and MALDI-TOF was conducted on 18 bacterial strains isolated from surfaces in astromaterials cleanrooms. WGS identified 14 Bacillus, 2 Paenibacillus, 1 Solibacillus and 1 Alcaligenes strains. These isolates showed similarity to strains commonly observed in spacecraft assembly cleanrooms at other facilities. Cluster analysis of mass spectra generated by MALDI-TOF grouped strains together that were greater than 94% similar to each other in terms of amino acid sequences of single copy core genes, as assessed by WGS. This suggests that MALDI-TOF and WGS results are consistent with each other and MALDI-TOF can rapidly identify strains of Bacillus sp. isolated from cleanroom environments with a resolution comparable to WGS. Based on phylogenomic analysis, these results also suggest the presence of a cosmopolitan class of Bacillus sp. that are more likely to be found in cleanrooms and similar built environments than in natural systems.

Built, MALDI-TOF, WGS, NASA, Clean room, Bacillus, bacterial