Bacillus subtilis systems biology: Applications of -Omics techniques to the study of endospore formation

Ashley R. Bate, Richard Bonneau, Patrick Eichenberger

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Endospore-forming bacteria, with Bacillus subtilis being the prevalent model organism, belong to the phylum Firmicutes. Although the last common ancestor of all Firmicutes is likely to have been an endospore-forming species, not every lineage in the phylum has maintained the ability to produce endospores (hereafter, spores). In 1997, the release of the full genome sequence for B. subtilis strain 168 marked the beginning of the genomic era for the study of spore formation (sporulation). In this original genome sequence, 139 of the 4,100 protein-coding genes were annotated as sporulation genes. By the time a revised genome sequence with updated annotations was published in 2009, that number had increased significantly, especially since transcriptional profiling studies (transcriptomics) led to the identification of several genes expressed under the control of known sporulation transcription factors. Over the past decade, genome sequences for multiple spore-forming species have been released (including several strains in the Bacillus anthracis/Bacillus cereus group and many Clostridium species), and phylogenomic analyses have revealed many conserved sporulation genes. Parallel advances in transcriptomics led to the identification of small untranslated regulatory RNAs (sRNAs), including some that are expressed during sporulation. An extended array of -omics techniques, i.e., techniques designed to probe gene function on a genome-wide scale, such as proteomics, metabolomics, and high-throughput protein localization studies, have been implemented in microbiology. Combined with the use of new computational methods for predicting gene function and inferring regulatory relationships on a global scale, these -omics approaches are uncovering novel information about sporulation and a variety of other bacterial cell processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberTBS-0019-2013
JournalMicrobiology Spectrum
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Ecology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • Genetics
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology
  • Infectious Diseases


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