Competence for genetic transformation in pneumococcus depends on synthesis of a small set of proteins

Nature. 1979 Nov 8;282(5735):215-7. doi: 10.1038/282215a0.


In bacterial genetic transformation the uptake of DNA and its integration into the resident chromosome is dependent on a special cellular state, termed competence. In those species where appearance of competence has been studied, specific (but often poorly defined) growth conditions lead to a simultaneous development of competence in a substantial fraction of the cells in a culture. In Bacillus subtilis, and in Haemophilus species, competence appears in the stationary phase of growth or in certain other growth-limiting conditions. Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus) is perhaps unusual in that virtually all cells of a culture become competent, for a short period at a specific cell density during logarithmic growth, without perturbing the growth rate. The synchronous appearance of competence in pneumococcal cultures results from an autocatalytic effect of a small protein released by the cells that induces competence. The response to competence factor has been shown to require protein synthesis. We report here additional information on the nature of competence in pneumococcus: pulse-labelling studies show that for the brief period of competence protein synthesis is restricted to a few specific polypeptides.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Molecular Weight
  • Recombination, Genetic
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae / genetics*
  • Transformation, Bacterial*


  • Bacterial Proteins