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Deep subsurface environments can harbour high concentrations of dissolved ions, yet we know little about how this shapes the conditions for life. We know even less about how the combined effects of high pressure influence the way in which ions constrain the possibilities for life. One such ion is perchlorate, which is found in extreme environments on Earth and pervasively on Mars. We investigated the interactions of high pressure and high perchlorate concentrations on enzymatic activity. We demonstrate that high pressures increase α-chymotrypsin enzyme activity even in the presence of high perchlorate concentrations. Perchlorate salts were shown to shift the folded α-chymotrypsin phase space to lower temperatures and pressures. The results presented here may suggest that high pressures increase the habitability of environments under perchlorate stress. Therefore, deep subsurface environments that combine these stressors, potentially including the subsurface of Mars, may be more habitable than previously thought.


Stewart Gault, Michel W Jaworek, Roland Winter, Charles S Cockell. High pressures increase α-chymotrypsin enzyme activity under perchlorate stress. Communications biology. 2020 Oct 02;3(1):550

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PMID: 33009512

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