How bacteria talk to each other: regulation of gene expression by quorum sensing

Curr Opin Microbiol. 1999 Dec;2(6):582-7. doi: 10.1016/s1369-5274(99)00025-9.


Quorum sensing, or the control of gene expression in response to cell density, is used by both gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria to regulate a variety of physiological functions. In all cases, quorum sensing involves the production and detection of extracellular signalling molecules called autoinducers. While universal signalling themes exist, variations in the design of the extracellular signals, the signal detection apparatuses, and the biochemical mechanisms of signal relay have allowed quorum sensing systems to be exquisitely adapted for their varied uses. Recent studies show that quorum sensing modulates both intra- and inter-species cell-cell communication, and it plays a major role in enabling bacteria to architect complex community structures.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / physiology
  • Carbon-Sulfur Lyases
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / genetics*
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / growth & development*
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / genetics*
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / growth & development*
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics
  • Repressor Proteins / physiology
  • Signal Transduction
  • Trans-Activators / genetics
  • Trans-Activators / physiology


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Trans-Activators
  • luxL protein, Vibrio harveyi
  • LuxR autoinducer binding proteins
  • Carbon-Sulfur Lyases
  • LuxS protein, Bacteria