SUMMARY: The mutation is one of two sporulation mutations originally used to define the locus of . We now show that it blocks sporulation after completion of prespore engulfment (stage III). Surprisingly, the operon is expressed vegetatively, probably from a σ-dependent promoter, and its expression is shut down at the transcriptional level at about the onset of sporulation. DNA sequencing reveals that the locus defined by , which we now designate , consists of a bicistronic operon. However, only the first gene is essential for sporulation; the function of the second cistron is cryptic. The predicted SpoIIIJ product has an of 29409. It probably forms a lipoprotein and is rich in basic and hydrophobic amino acids. Mutations in abolish the transcription of prespore-specific genes transcribed by the σ form of RNA polymerase but not transcription of the gene encoding σ. The SpoIIIJ product could be involved in a signal transduction pathway coupling gene expression in the prespore to events in the mother cell, or it could be necessary for essential metabolic interactions between the two cells.


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