Compartmentalization of gene expression during Bacillus subtilis spore formation

Microbiol Mol Biol Rev. 2004 Jun;68(2):234-62. doi: 10.1128/MMBR.68.2.234-262.2004.


Gene expression in members of the family Bacillaceae becomes compartmentalized after the distinctive, asymmetrically located sporulation division. It involves complete compartmentalization of the activities of sporulation-specific sigma factors, sigma(F) in the prespore and then sigma(E) in the mother cell, and then later, following engulfment, sigma(G) in the prespore and then sigma(K) in the mother cell. The coupling of the activation of sigma(F) to septation and sigma(G) to engulfment is clear; the mechanisms are not. The sigma factors provide the bare framework of compartment-specific gene expression. Within each sigma regulon are several temporal classes of genes, and for key regulators, timing is critical. There are also complex intercompartmental regulatory signals. The determinants for sigma(F) regulation are assembled before septation, but activation follows septation. Reversal of the anti-sigma(F) activity of SpoIIAB is critical. Only the origin-proximal 30% of a chromosome is present in the prespore when first formed; it takes approximately 15 min for the rest to be transferred. This transient genetic asymmetry is important for prespore-specific sigma(F) activation. Activation of sigma(E) requires sigma(F) activity and occurs by cleavage of a prosequence. It must occur rapidly to prevent the formation of a second septum. sigma(G) is formed only in the prespore. SpoIIAB can block sigma(G) activity, but SpoIIAB control does not explain why sigma(G) is activated only after engulfment. There is mother cell-specific excision of an insertion element in sigK and sigma(E)-directed transcription of sigK, which encodes pro-sigma(K). Activation requires removal of the prosequence following a sigma(G)-directed signal from the prespore.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacillus subtilis / genetics
  • Bacillus subtilis / growth & development
  • Bacillus subtilis / physiology*
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Compartmentation / genetics*
  • Chromosomes, Bacterial
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • DNA, Bacterial / metabolism*
  • Forecasting
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Regulon
  • Sigma Factor / genetics
  • Sigma Factor / metabolism*
  • Spores, Bacterial


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • Sigma Factor