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We have analysed the function of a gene of Bacillus subtilis, the product of which shows significant homology with eukaryotic SMC proteins essential for chromosome condensation and segregation. Two mutant strains were constructed; in one, the expression was under the control of the inducible spac promoter (conditional null) and, in the other, the gene was disrupted by insertion (disrupted null). Both could form colonies at 23°C but not at 37°C in the absence of the expression of the Smc protein, indicating that the B. subtilis smc gene was essential for cell growth at higher temperatures. Microscopic examination revealed the formation of anucleate and elongated cells and diffusion of nucleoids within the elongated cells in the disrupted null mutant grown at 23°C and in the conditional null mutant grown in low concentrations of IPTG at 37°C. In addition, immunofluorescence microscopy showed that subcellular localization of the Spo0J partition protein was irregular in the smc disrupted null mutant, compared with bipolar localization in wild-type cells. These results indicate that the B. subtilis smc gene is essential for chromosome partition. The role of B. subtilis Smc protein in chromosome partition is discussed.