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Molecular Dynamics in Bacterial Spores

A study by scientists from the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, published inCell, reveals the occurrence of dynamic events within bacterial spores.  Bacterial spores are the most resilient cell type known on earth; they can survive long periods of time and withstand extreme environmental conditions. Remarkably, dormant spores can rapidly convert back to actively growing cells when conditions are favorable. Although bacterial spores have been documented from the early days of microbiology, it is still unrevealed how dormancy is accomplished and how it is ceased. The unusual biochemical and biophysical characteristics of the spore make it a challenging biological system to investigate using conventional methods. In the study conducted under the supervision ofProf. Sigal Ben-Yehuda by the PhD student Einat Segev in collaboration with Dr. Yoav Smith (Genomic Data Analysis Unit), various techniques were developed to explore molecular dynamics within spores. The researchers revealed that several days following spore production, RNA degradation and synthesis still occur within the spore in a time and temperature dependent manner. Furthermore, these molecular changes influence the spore ability to resume a vegetative life form. Thus, this study demonstrates that in contrast to current thinking, entering dormancy lasts a few days, during which spores are responsive to environmental cues and undergo corresponding molecular changes. These new findings imply that bacterial spores in diverse habitats will potentially possess different molecular features. This concept may be applicable for diverse organisms including plant seeds and a variety of bacteria displaying a quiescent life form.​