Anhydrobiosis, or life without water is commonly demonstrated by a number of plants and animals. These organisms have the capacity to loose all body water, remain dry for various periods, and then be revived by rehydration. While in the anhydrobiotic state, these organisms become highly resistant to several environmental stresses such as extremely low temperatures, elevated temperatures, ionizing radiation, and high vacuum. Since water is commonly thought to be essential for life, survival of anhydrobiotic organisms with an almost total loss of water is examined. A search of literature reveal that many anhydrobiotic organisms make large quantities of trehalose or other carbohydrates. Laboratory experiments have shown that trehalose is able to stabilize and preserve microsomes of sarcoplasmic reticulum and artificial liposomes. It was demonstrated that trehalose and other disaccharides can interact directly with phosopipid headgroups and maintain membranes in their native configuration by replacing water in the headgroup region. Recent studies show that trehalose is an effective stabilizer of proteins during drying and that it does so by direct interaction with groups on the protein. If life that is able to withstand environmental extremes has ever developed on Mars, it is expected that such life would have developed some protective compounds which can stabilize macromolecular structure in the absence of water and at cold temperatures. On Earth, that role appears to be filled by carbohydrates that can stabilize both membrane and protein stuctures during freezing and drying. By analog with terrestrial systems, such life forms might develop resistance either during some reproductive stage or at any time during adult existence. If the resistant form is a developmental stage, the life cycle of the organism must be completed with a reasonable time period relative to time when environmental conditions are favorable. This would suggest that simple organisms with a short life cycle might be most sucessful.
LIFE SCIENCES (GENERAL)
NASA, Ames Research Center, Exobiology and Future Mars Missions; p 13-14