Evolutionary Analysis of the Bacillus subtilis Genome Reveals New Genes Involved in Sporulation

Mol Biol Evol. 2020 Jun 1;37(6):1667-1678. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msaa035.


Bacilli can form dormant, highly resistant, and metabolically inactive spores to cope with extreme environmental challenges. In this study, we examined the evolutionary age of Bacillus subtilis sporulation genes using the approach known as genomic phylostratigraphy. We found that B. subtilis sporulation genes cluster in several groups that emerged at distant evolutionary time-points, suggesting that the sporulation process underwent several stages of expansion. Next, we asked whether such evolutionary stratification of the genome could be used to predict involvement in sporulation of presently uncharacterized genes (y-genes). We individually inactivated a representative sample of uncharacterized genes that arose during the same evolutionary periods as the known sporulation genes and tested the resulting strains for sporulation phenotypes. Sporulation was significantly affected in 16 out of 37 (43%) tested strains. In addition to expanding the knowledge base on B. subtilis sporulation, our findings suggest that evolutionary age could be used to help with genome mining.

Keywords: Bacillus subtilis; genome mining; genomic phylostratigraphy; sporulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacillus subtilis / physiology*
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Genome, Bacterial*
  • Phenotype
  • Spores, Bacterial*