Rates of deoxyribonucleic acid, ribonucleic acid, and protein synthesis were examined in purified competent cells of Bacillus subtilis during the development of the transformable state. To become competent, a cell must depart from the normal course of vegetative growth and pass through a precompetent phase beginning as early as 90 to 180 min before the appearance of transformability. While in the precompetent state, the cell decreases its rate of deoxyribonucleic acid synthesis and lowers its ratio of ribonucleic acid synthesis to protein synthesis. This altered pattern of synthesis eventually leads to a decreased buoyant density of precompetent cells. Once a cell has become both precompetent and low in density, it can be converted to a competent (transformable) cell. The early alterations in macromolecular synthesis were found in two competence regimens, one utilizing a nutritional step-down and one free of such a shift. The data imply that the precompetent state is a generalized characteristic of the B. subtilis transformation system and is not specific to the procedure used to allow competence development. Since precompetence-specific events occur very early in a competence regimen, we conclude that the induction of precompetence is unrelated to sporulation or a nutritional shift.