Dormant bacterial spores encrypt a long-lasting transcriptional program to be executed during revival

Bing Zhou, Yifei Xiong, Yuval Nevo, Tamar Kahan, Oren Yakovian, Sima Alon, Saurabh Bhattacharya, Ilan Rosenshine, Lior Sinai, Sigal Ben-Yehuda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sporulating bacteria can retreat into long-lasting dormant spores that preserve the capacity to germinate when propitious. However, how the revival transcriptional program is memorized for years remains elusive. We revealed that in dormant spores, core RNA polymerase (RNAP) resides in a central chromosomal domain, where it remains bound to a subset of intergenic promoter regions. These regions regulate genes encoding for most essential cellular functions, such as rRNAs and tRNAs. Upon awakening, RNAP recruits key transcriptional components, including sigma factor, and progresses to express the adjacent downstream genes. Mutants devoid of spore DNA-compacting proteins exhibit scattered RNAP localization and subsequently disordered firing of gene expression during germination. Accordingly, we propose that the spore chromosome is structured to preserve the transcriptional program by halting RNAP, prepared to execute transcription at the auspicious time. Such a mechanism may sustain long-term transcriptional programs in diverse organisms displaying a quiescent life form.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)4158-4173.e7
JournalMolecular Cell
Issue number22
StatePublished - 16 Nov 2023


  • Bacillus subtilis
  • Csp
  • RNAP
  • SASP
  • chromosome structure
  • spore dormancy
  • spore germination
  • sporulation
  • transcription

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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