When triggered by nutrient limitation, the Gram-positive bacterium Bacillus subtilis and its relatives enter a pathway of cellular differentiation culminating in the formation of a dormant cell type called a spore, the most resilient cell type known. Bacterial spores can survive for long periods of time and are able to endure extremes of heat, radiation and chemical assault. Remarkably, dormant spores can rapidly convert back to actively growing cells by a process called germination. Consequently, spore forming bacteria, including dangerous pathogens, (such as C. botulinum and B. anthracis) are highly resistant to antibacterial treatments and difficult to eradicate. Despite significant advances in our understanding of the process of spore formation, little is known about the nature of the mature spore. It is unrevealed how dormancy is maintained within the spore and how it is ceased, as the organization and the dynamics of the spore macromolecules remain obscure. The unusual biochemical and biophysical characteristics of the dormant spore make it a challenging biological system to investigate using conventional methods, and thus set the need to develop innovative approaches to study spore biology. We propose to explore the nature of spores by using B. subtilis as a primary experimental system. We intend to: (1) define the architecture of the spore chromosome, (2) track the complexity and fate of mRNA and protein molecules during sporulation, dormancy and germination, (3) revisit the basic notion of the spore dormancy (is it metabolically inert?), (4) compare the characteristics of bacilli spores from diverse ecophysiological groups, (5) investigate the features of spores belonging to distant bacterial genera, (6) generate an integrative database that categorizes the molecular features of spores. Our study will provide original insights and introduce novel concepts to the field of spore biology and may help devise innovative ways to combat spore forming pathogens.
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