Radiotrophic fungi appear to exhibit radiosynthesis, the conversion of ionizing radiation into chemical growth. These fungi were observed growing in the high radiation environments surrounding the abandoned remains of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Research suggests fungi that show these extremophile properties are rich in the pigment melanin. However, the cellular and molecular mechanism of fungal responses to such radiation remain poorly understood.
Results are to be published showing the result of growing these fungi on the International Space Station.
Understanding the process by which these organisms not only survive but appear to thrive in hard radiation environments could lead to numerous nuclear technology applications.