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Wayne L. Nicholson


  • Teaching Interests
    • MCB 6457 - Metabolic Regulation
  • Education
    • Ph.D. (1987) University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI.
    • Postdoctoral (1987-1990) University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, CT.
  • Description of Research

    General area: Dr. Nicholson’s laboratory studies mechanisms of bacterial spore resistance and longevity, the survival and proliferation of microorganisms in extreme extraterrestrial environments, and microbial evolution in novel environments.

    Mechanisms of bacterial spore resistance and longevity.

    Bacterial endospores are the longest-lived cells known and exhibit a high degree of resistance to extremes of temperature, desiccation, pressure, and radiation over extended time periods.  Spore DNA is a major target of lethal and mutagenic damage, and research in our lab concentrates on mechanisms that protect spore DNA from damage and by which DNA damage is repaired during spore germination, using the model organism Bacillus subtilis. Understanding spore resistance has important applications in a variety of fields ranging from public health and bioterrorism to geomicrobiology and astrobiology.

    Survival and proliferation of microorganisms in extreme extraterrestrial environments.

    A portion of the spore resistance and longevity research in our lab is concentrated on placing physical constraints on lithopanspermia theory, which postulates the transfer of viable microorganisms between planets as the result of natural impact processes. Such research has important implications in the fields of astrobiology and in planetary protection research.

    Microbial responses to the human spaceflight environment.

    We are interested in understanding how bacterial cells respond to cultivation in the microgravity environment inside the International Space Station (ISS). To date we have sent three experiments to the ISS to study microgravity effects on growth; the global transcriptome, proteome, and metabolome; resistance to antibiotics; and mutagenesis. A fourth mission is planned for launch to the ISS in late 2022 to study alterations in DNA architecture in response to microgravity.

  • Publications


Contact Information


Florida Space Life Sciences Laboratory,
Kennedy Space Center, FL