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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1992 Sep 15;89(18):8808-12.

Coupling between gene expression and DNA synthesis early during development in Bacillus subtilis.

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Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge 02139.


Endospore formation in the bacterium Bacillus subtilis involves generation of two cell types, each with different developmental fates. Each cell type contains an active chromosome, and treatments that inhibit DNA synthesis at the beginning of development inhibit spore formation. We describe experiments demonstrating that gene expression early during sporulation is coupled to DNA synthesis. Expression of several genes that are induced early during sporulation, before the formation of two cell types, is inhibited when DNA synthesis is inhibited. Genes that are affected require the transcription factor encoded by spo0A for normal induction. Spo0A protein is normally activated early in development by a multicomponent phosphorylation pathway, or phospho-relay. Altered function mutations in spo0A that bypass the need for the phospho-relay allow early sporulation gene expression, even when DNA synthesis is inhibited. These results indicate that inhibition of DNA synthesis prevents activation of the Spo0A transcription factor by inhibiting a step in the phospho-relay. It seems likely that coupling early developmental gene expression to DNA synthesis is a general mechanism to prevent inappropriate or unnecessary gene expression.

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