To main objective of this project is to study the response of bacteria to copper- and silver-based antimicrobials in the frame work of space applications. To dissect the problem, the focus will be on the metal ions, as many of the more complex compounds just ferry ions that are released and exert their action, and on Cupriavidus metallidurans strains isolated from actual contamination events that occurred in the ISS drinking water systems (Mijnendonckx et al., 2013b). Taking into account the role of Hfq during space flight (Wilson et al., 2007) and its altered gene expression after metal exposure (Monsieurs et al., 2011), a particular focus will be on post-transcriptional regulation via small regulatory RNAs, as this regulation level is barely studied in the context of copper and silver resistance. These data will support the assessment of metal-based antimicrobials for space applications and will scientifically underpin a recent ESA-approved science project on metal-based antimicrobials that is scheduled to be conducted onboard ISS (SCK•CEN is partner), but also their use in a more general context.
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