Jacob Heinz

Jacob Heinz
Technische Universität Berlin | TUB · Centre of Astronomy and Astrophysics

Dr. rer. nat. (PhD)

About

14
Publications
4,862
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338
Citations
Citations since 2016
13 Research Items
334 Citations
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Introduction
The goal of my studies is to gain a better understanding of the formation of brines on Mars, e.g. via deliquescence, and to investigate their habitability via growth experiments with various halo- and psychrophilic microorganisms through different techniques (CFU, live/dead staining, SEM, proteomics, metabolomics) at various temperatures ranging from 25°C to -50°C. Additionally, life detection experiments are carried out as well as experiments in Mars simulation chambers.
Additional affiliations
January 2021 - present
Technische Universität Berlin
Position
  • PostDoc Position
September 2020 - December 2020
Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries
Position
  • PostDoc Position
September 2019 - February 2020
Technische Universität Berlin
Position
  • PostDoc Position
Education
October 2008 - September 2014

Publications

Publications (14)
Article
Full-text available
If life exists on Mars, it would face several challenges including the presence of perchlorates, which destabilize biomacromolecules by inducing chaotropic stress. However, little is known about perchlorate toxicity for microorganism on the cellular level. Here we present the first proteomic investigation on the perchlorate‐specific stress response...
Preprint
Full-text available
If life exists on Mars, it would face several challenges including the presence of perchlorates, which destabilize biomacromolecules by inducing chaotropic stress. However, little is known about perchlorate toxicity for microorganism on the cellular level. Here we present the first proteomic investigation on the perchlorate-specific stress response...
Article
Full-text available
The availability of liquid water is a prerequisite for all lifeforms on Earth. In hyperarid subzero environments like the Dry Valleys in Antarctica or the near-subsurface of Mars liquid water might be provided temporarily by hygroscopic substances that absorb water from the atmosphere and lower the freezing point of water. To evaluate the potential...
Article
Full-text available
The existence of microbial activity hotspots in temperate regions of Earth is driven by soil heterogeneities, especially the temporal and spatial availability of nutrients. Here we investigate whether microbial activity hotspots also exist in lithic microhabitats in one of the most arid regions of the world, the Atacama Desert in Chile. While previ...
Article
Full-text available
Microorganisms living in sub-zero environments can benefit from the presence of dissolved salts, as they significantly increase the temperature range of liquid water by lowering the freezing point. However, high concentrations of salts can reduce microbial growth and survival, and can evoke a physiological stress response. It remains poorly underst...
Article
Full-text available
The habitability of Mars is strongly dependent on the availability of liquid water, which is essential for life as we know it. One of the few places where liquid water might be found on Mars is in liquid perchlorate brines that could form via deliquescence. As these concentrated perchlorate salt solutions do not occur on Earth as natural environmen...
Article
The question whether organic compounds occur on Mars remained unanswered for decades. However, the recent discovery of various classes of organic matter in martian sediments by the Curiosity rover seems to strongly suggest that indigenous organic compounds exist on Mars. One intriguing group of detected organic compounds were thiophenes, which typi...
Article
Full-text available
The current understanding of the Martian surface indicates that briny environments at the near-surface are temporarily possible, e.g. in the case of the presumably deliquescence-driven Recurring Slope Lineae (RSL). However, whether such dynamic environments are habitable for terrestrial organisms remains poorly understood. This hypothesis was teste...
Article
Full-text available
Extraterrestrial environments encompass physicochemical conditions and habitats that are unknown on Earth, such as perchlorate-rich brines that can be at least temporarily stable on the martian surface. To better understand the potential for life in these cold briny environments, we determined the maximum salt concentrations suitable for growth (MS...
Thesis
Full-text available
The availability of liquid water on Mars is one of the key factors for its habitability. While there is strong morphological and geochemical evidence for the existence of large water bodies on the surface of Early Mars, at the present time, the planet is dry, cold and hostile. However, liquid water might still be found in niches like cold brines. T...
Article
Full-text available
It is well known that dissolved salts can significantly lower the freezing point of water and thus extend habitability to subzero conditions. However, most investigations thus far have focused on sodium chloride as a solute. In this study, we report on the survivability of the bacterial strain Planococcus halocryophilus in sodium, magnesium, and ca...
Article
Full-text available
Significance It has remained an unresolved question whether microorganisms recovered from the most arid environments on Earth are thriving under such extreme conditions or are just dead or dying vestiges of viable cells fortuitously deposited by atmospheric processes. Based on multiple lines of evidence, we show that indigenous microbial communitie...
Article
Full-text available
Recurring slope lineae (RSL) are flow-like features on Mars characterized by a local darkening of the soil thought to be generated by the formation and flow of liquid brines. One possible mechanism responsible for forming these brines could be the deliquescence of salts present in the Martian soil. We show that the JSC Mars-1a analogue soil undergo...
Article
The determination of the phase diagram of the binary system sodium perchlorate – water is reported. Beside the eutectic point, two polymorph crystal structures of sodium perchlorate dihydrate were determined. The two crystal structures are discussed, compared to each other and to other known sodiumhalide dihydrate crystal structures. The two polymo...

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Projects (2)
Project
It is still an open question whether microbial life is or has been present on Mars - even 45 years after the performance of the first life detection experiments by the Viking landers on the Red Planet. A better understanding of the planet’s potential habitable environments is needed, to search for life on Mars in the right locations and with the most appropriate analytical tools. In its early history Mars had a warmer and wetter climate than today, however, the loss of its magnetic field and the concomitant depletion of its atmosphere resulted in the formation of a cold and dry desert planet. Life as we know it requires liquid water and, therefore, the investigation of the Martian habitability is connected to the search for environments containing liquid water. One of those potentially habitable niches are cold brines (cryobrines) that can form on Mars via deliquescence, which is the process when a hygroscopic salt absorbs water from the atmosphere and dissolves within that water. There is strong evidence for the occurrence of deliquescence and the (at least temporarily) existence of brines on Mars and in its subsurface. The salts in these brines lower the freezing point of water significantly and, thus, expand the temperature range for the stability of liquid water on Mars substantially. However, not much is known about the microbial habitability of these brines. The objective of this project is to investigate the salt tolerances of various halophilic and halotolerant microorganisms of all three domains of life (bacteria, archaea, and eukaryotes) in brines of several Mars-relevant salts (chlorides, chlorates, perchlorates, sulfates, and nitrates) in dependence of temperature. The metabolic and morphologic stress responses that occur during microbial growth under salt stress conditions will be investigated via microscopic analyses, metabolomics, proteomics, and other appropriate analytical tools. Additionally, the most halophilic organisms will be exposed to a Mars-like environment (strong UV radiation, low pressures, CO2 atmosphere, drastic changes in temperature and relative humidity) in a Mars simulation chamber, which is available in the lab of the Astrobiology Research Group at the TU Berlin. The objective of these experiments is to investigate whether microbial growth under Mars-like environmental conditions in briny solutions is possible. This research study will not only enhance our knowledge about the habitability of Mars, but will also provide new insights in the research areas of environmental microbiology, extremophilic organisms, proteomics, metabolomics, and biotechnology.