Blackwell Publishing Journal Backfiles 1879-2005
Sporulation in the Gram-positive bacterium, Bacillus subtilis, has been used as an excellent model system to study cell differentiation for almost half a century. This research has given us a detailed picture of the genetic, physiological and biochemical mechanisms that allow bacteria to survive harsh environmental conditions by forming highly robust spores. Although many basic aspects of this process are now understood in great detail, including the crystal and NMR structures of some of the key proteins and their complexes, bacterial sporulation still continues to be a highly attractive model for studying various cell processes at a molecular level. There are several reasons for such scientific interest. First, some of the complex steps in sporulation are not fully understood and/or are only described by ‘controversial’ models. Second, intensive research on unicellular development of a single microorganism, B. subtilis, left us largely unaware of the multitude of diverse sporulation mechanisms in many other Gram-positive endospore and exospore formers. This diversity would likely be increased if we were to include sporulation processes in the Gram-negative spore formers. Spore formers have great potential in applied research. They have been used for many years as biodosimeters and as natural insecticides, exploited in the industrial production of enzymes, antibiotics, used as probiotics and, more, exploited as possible vectors for drug delivery, vaccine antigens and other immunomodulating molecules. This report describes these and other aspects of current fundamental and applied spore research that were presented at European Spores Conference held in Smolenice Castle, Slovakia, June 2004.
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