To elucidate the process of asymmetric division during sporulation of Bacillus subtilis, we have measured changes in cell cycle parameters during the transition from vegetative growth to sporulation. Because the propensity of B. subtilis to grow in chains of cells precludes the use of automated cell-scanning devices, we have developed a fluorescence microscopic method for analyzing cell cycle parameters in individual cells. From the results obtained, and measurements of DNA replication fork elongation rates and the escape time of sporulation from the inhibition of DNA replication, we have derived a detailed time scale for the early morphological events of sporulation which is mainly consistent with the cell cycle changes expected following nutritional downshift. The previously postulated sensitive stage in the DNA replication cycle, beyond which the cell is unable to sporulate without a new cell cycle, could represent a point in the division cycle at which the starved cell cannot avoid attaining the initiation mass for DNA replication and thus embarking on another round of the cell cycle. The final cell cycle event, formation of the asymmetric spore septum, occurs at about the time in the cell cycle at which the uninduced cell would have divided centrally, in keeping with the view that spore septation is a modified version of vegetative division
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