SUMMARY: The spontaneous development of competence by cultures of in casein hydrolysate medium was strongly dependent on the initial pH of the culture medium. Cells growing in cultures beginning with a wide range of initial pH values (6·8 to 8·0) all developed competence, as measured by [H]DNA uptake, [H]DNA degradation and genetic transformation; but the initial pH of the medium affected both the timing of the occurrence of competence and the number of times the culture became competent. In cultures grown in media of lower initial pH, competence occurred only once, at high population densities, while in more alkaline media a succession of competence cycles occurred, beginning at lower cell densities. The critical population density required for the initiation of competence varied tenfold over the pH range studied. Successive competence cycles in an alkaline medium were not equivalent: while the percentage of competent cells in the first competence cycle was high (approximately 80%), that in the second competence cycle was lower (approximately 12%). Correspondingly, competence-specific proteins were less prominent in the labelled-protein pattern of the second competence cycle than in that of the first. These features of the physiology of competence control make it possible to adjust the expression of competence to suit various experimental requirements.


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