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    Elucidating the details of the formation, stability, interactions, and reactivity of biomolecular systems under extreme environmental conditions, including high salt concentrations in brines and high osmotic and high hydrostatic pressures, is of fundamental biological, astrobiological, and biotechnological importance. Bacteria and archaea are able to survive in the deep ocean or subsurface of Earth, where pressures of up to 1 kbar are reached. The deep subsurface of Mars may host high concentrations of ions in brines, such as perchlorates, but we know little about how these conditions and the resulting osmotic stress conditions would affect the habitability of such environments for cellular life. We discuss the combined effects of osmotic (salts, organic cosolvents) and hydrostatic pressures on the structure, stability, and reactivity of biomolecular systems, including membranes, proteins, and nucleic acids. To this end, a variety of biophysical techniques have been applied, including calorimetry, UV/vis, FTIR and fluorescence spectroscopy, and neutron and X-ray scattering, in conjunction with high pressure techniques. Knowledge of these effects is essential to our understanding of life exposed to such harsh conditions, and of the physical limits of life in general. Finally, we discuss strategies that not only help us understand the adaptive mechanisms of organisms that thrive in such harsh geological settings but could also have important ramifications in biotechnological and pharmaceutical applications.


    Jim-Marcel Knop, Sanjib Mukherjee, Michel W Jaworek, Simon Kriegler, Magiliny Manisegaran, Zamira Fetahaj, Lena Ostermeier, Rosario Oliva, Stewart Gault, Charles S Cockell, Roland Winter. Life in Multi-Extreme Environments: Brines, Osmotic and Hydrostatic Pressure─A Physicochemical View. Chemical reviews. 2023 Jan 11;123(1):73-104

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    PMID: 36260784

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