When chloramphenicol was added to a culture of Bacillus subtilis in early exponential growth, microscopic observation of cells stained by 4',6-diamidino-2-phenylindole showed nucleoids that had changed in appearance from irregular spheres and dumbbells to large, brightly stained spheres and ovals. In contrast, the addition of chloramphenicol to cultures in mid- and late exponential growth showed cells with elongated nucleoids whose frequency and length increased as the culture approached stationary phase. The kinetics of nucleoid elongation after the addition of chloramphenicol to exponential-phase cultures was complex. Immediately after treatment, the rate of nucleoid elongation was very rapid. The nucleoid then elongated steadily for about 4 min, after which the rate of elongation decreased considerably. Nucleoids of cells treated with 6-(p-hydroxyphenylazo)-uracil (an inhibitor of DNA synthesis) exhibited the immediate rapid elongation upon chloramphenicol treatment but not the subsequent changes. These observations suggest that axial filament formation during stationary phase (stage I of sporulation) in the absence of chloramphenicol results from changes in nucleoid structure that are initiated earlier, during exponential growth.