We have used DNA microarrays to survey rates of mRNA decay on a genomic scale in early stationary-phase cultures of Bacillus subtilis. The decay rates for mRNAs corresponding to about 1500 genes could be estimated. About 80% of these mRNAs had a half-life of less than 7 min. More than 30 mRNAs, including both mono- and polycistronic transcripts, were found to be extremely stable, i.e. to have a half-life of greater than or equal to15 min. Only two such transcripts were known previously in B. subtilis. The results provide the first overview of mRNA decay rates in a gram-positive bacterium and help to identify polycistronic operons. We could find no obvious correlation between the stability of an mRNA and the function of the encoded protein. We have also not found any general features in the 5' regions of mRNAs that distinguish stable from unstable transcripts. The identified set of extremely stable mRNAs may be useful in the construction of stable recombinant genes for the overproduction of biomolecules in Bacillus species.