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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2001 Oct 23;98(22):12538-43. Epub 2001 Oct 16.

Development of a two-part transcription probe to determine the completeness of temporal and spatial compartmentalization of gene expression during bacterial development.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Temple University School of Medicine, 3400 North Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19140, USA.


We have developed a two-part test, using the Bacillus subtilis sacB/SacY transcription antitermination system, to evaluate the completeness of temporal and spatial compartmentalization of gene expression during bacterial cell development. Transcription of sacY(1-55) (encoding a constitutively active form of the antiterminator, SacY) is directed by one promoter, whereas transcription of sacB'-'lacZ (the target of SacY action) is directed by the same or another promoter. To obtain beta-galactosidase activity, SacY(1-55) needs to be present when sacB'-'lacZ is being transcribed. We tested the system by analyzing the spatial compartmentalization of the activities of RNA polymerase final sigma factors, which are tightly regulated during sporulation of B. subtilis: final sigma(F) and then final sigma(G) in the prespore, final sigma(E) and then final sigma(K) in the mother cell. We have confirmed that the activities of final sigma(F) and final sigma(E) are spatially compartmentalized. We have demonstrated that there is also sharp temporal compartmentalization, with little or no overlap in the activities of final sigma(F) and final sigma(G) or of final sigma(E) and final sigma(K). In contrast, we found no compartmentalization of the activity of the main vegetative factor, final sigma(A), which continued to be active alongside all of the sporulation-specific final sigma factors. We also found no temporal compartmentalization of expression of loci that are activated during the development of competent cells of B. subtilis, a developmental program distinct from spore formation. A possible mechanism to explain the temporal compartmentalization of final sigma(F) and final sigma(G) activities is that the anti-sigma factor SpoIIAB transfers from final sigma(G) to final sigma(F).

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