The regulated activation of numerous sets of genes in multiple chromosomal locations is a hallmark of cellular differentiation in both eukaryotes and prokaryotes. Certain species of bacteria that experience complex developmental cycles are especially attractive as systems in which to study the mechanisms of this kind of gene regulation because they are highly amenable to both biochemical and genetic approaches. Bacillus subtilis, which undergoes extensive cellular differentiation when it sporulates, is one such system. Many new methods are now available in this Gram-positive species for identifying, manipulating, and studying the regulation of genes involved in spore formation, including the use of transposable genetic elements that create gene fusions in vivo as an automatic consequence of insertions into genes.
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