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Sporulation is a complex morphophysiological process resulting in a cellular structure that is more resistant than the vegetative form. In Firmicutes, this structure is produced within the mother cell, and is called an endospore. Endospore formation is thought to have evolved in the common ancestor of Firmicutes. However, sporulation has apparently been lost in some extant lineages that are defined as asporogenic . We isolated strain 11kri321, a representative of the genus Kurthia , from an oligotrophic geothermal reservoir. While Kurthia spp. is considered to comprise only asporogenic species, strain 11kri321 produced spores. Genomic reconstruction of the sporulation pathway shows elements typical of sporulation in Bacilli, including the signaling for sporulation onset. However, key genes were missing, including those involved in engulfment and dipicolinic acid synthesis. Based on the results for strain 11kri321, sporulation was investigated in other Kurthia strains. Genes involved in signaling, cell division and spore coat formation were detected in three available Kurthia genomes. Moreover, endosporulation was clearly visualized in at least two of the four strains tested. These results show that Kurthia is an endospore-forming Firmicute lineage. However, the genetic background of sporulation in this genus deviates from the known sporulation pathway in Firmicutes and even within Bacilli, suggesting that a revision of the minimal set of genes used for genomic detection of sporulation is required. Based on our findings we propose the term cryptosporulant to refer to putative asporogenic Firmicutes for which a detailed genomic and physiological characterization of sporulating is missing.

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