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Chapter 6 : Bacillus subtilis: Wild and Tame

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Abstract:

My dear friend Linc Sonenshein introduced me to forty years ago when he was a graduate student with Salvador Luria. The remarkable capacity of to transform itself into a spore has been the focus of my research ever since. Before too long, Sonenshein and I focused on 168 and related strains, the K12 of the world. We did so for the reason that, thanks to the pioneering work of John Spizizen (with some magic from Charley Yanofsky and Norm Giles sprinkled in), strain 168 exhibited the remarkable capacity to take up DNA from its environment and recombine the DNA into its chromosome. This discovery of genetic competence opened the way to traditional and, eventually, molecular, genetics in and made the bacterium a premier model organism. At the same time, and what I did not realize until many years later, we also paid a price for using a strain that had been passaged many times in the laboratory.

Citation: Losick R. 2016. Bacillus subtilis: Wild and Tame, p 19-21. In Schaechter M, In the Company of Microbes: 10 Years of Small Things Considered. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555819606.ch6
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Citation: Losick R. 2016. Bacillus subtilis: Wild and Tame, p 19-21. In Schaechter M, In the Company of Microbes: 10 Years of Small Things Considered. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555819606.ch6
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Domestication has led to the production of long chains of sessile cells. Shown is a fluorescence micrograph taken by Dan Kearns of growing cells of laboratory In addition to swimming cells (the green-colored singlets and doublets), the population contains many long chains of sessile cells. The cells were visualized with the vital membrane stain FM4-64 (red) and contained a fusion of the gene for the Green Fluorescence Protein (responsible for the green color) to a promoter under the control of a transcription factor that controls motility. Thus, only the motile cells in the image are green. Wild (undomesticated) strains, in comparison, produce relatively few chains of sessile cells.

Source: 2005. Cell population heterogeneity during growth of :3083-3094.

Citation: Losick R. 2016. Bacillus subtilis: Wild and Tame, p 19-21. In Schaechter M, In the Company of Microbes: 10 Years of Small Things Considered. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555819606.ch6
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Richard Losick is Harvard College Professor, Maria Moors Cabot Professor of Biology at Harvard University.

Citation: Losick R. 2016. Bacillus subtilis: Wild and Tame, p 19-21. In Schaechter M, In the Company of Microbes: 10 Years of Small Things Considered. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555819606.ch6
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