Under conditions of nutrient deprivation, the Gram positive soil bacterium Bacillus subtilis can abandon vegetative growth and form a dormant, environmentally-resistant spore instead. The decision to either divide or sporulate is controlled by a large and complex genetic regulatory network integrating various environmental, cell-cycle, and metabolic signals. Although sporulation in B. subtilis is one of the best-understood model systems for prokaryotic development, very little quantitative data on kinetic parameters and molecular concentrations are available. A qualitative simulation method is used to model the sporulation network and simulate the response of the cell to nutrient deprivation. Using this method, we have been able to reproduce essential features of the choice between vegetative growth and sporulation, in particular the role played by competing positive and negative feedback loops.
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