The follow-up study to Nucleic Acid Extraction from Synthetic Mars Analog Soils for in situ Life Detection is now available!
Nucleic acid extraction and sequencing from low-biomass synthetic Mars analog soils for in situ life detection
Here we demonstrate nucleic acid extraction from 10⁴ cells in 50 mg of synthetic Mars soils and demonstrate low-input nanopore sequencing from 2 pg of DNA.
Abstract: Recent studies regarding the origin of life and Mars-Earth meteorite transfer simulations suggest that biological informational polymers, such as nucleic acids (DNA and RNA), have the potential to provide unambiguous evidence of life on Mars. To this end, we are developing a metagenomics-based life-detection instrument which integrates nucleic acid extraction and nanopore sequencing: The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Genomes (SETG). Our goal is to isolate and sequence nucleic acids from extant or preserved life on Mars in order to determine if a particular genetic sequence (1) is distantly-related to life on Earth indicating a shared-ancestry due to lithological exchange, or (2) is unrelated to life on Earth suggesting a convergent origin of life on Mars. In this study, we validate prior work on nucleic acid extraction from cells deposited in Mars analog soils down to microbial concentrations observed in the driest and coldest regions on Earth. In addition, we report low-input nanopore sequencing results equivalent to 1 ppb life-detection sensitivity achieved by employing carrier sequencing, a method of sequencing sub-nanogram DNA in the background of a genomic carrier.