Evidence of quorum sensing in the rumen ecosystem: detection of N-acyl homoserine lactone autoinducers in ruminal contents

Can J Microbiol. 2002 Apr;48(4):374-8. doi: 10.1139/w02-022.


Acyl-homoserine lactone (AHL) based quorum-sensing systems are widespread among gram-negative bacteria, particularly in association with plants and animals. As yet, there have been no reports of AHL signaling in the anaerobic rumen environment, an ecosystem of great complexity in which cell-cell signaling is likely to occur. We detected multiple AHL autoinducers in the rumen contents of 6 out of 8 cattle fed a representative selection of diets. The signals were not associated with feed. Surprisingly, no pure cultures produced AHLs in vitro when grown under the laboratory conditions we tested. Our observations suggest that either (a) a factor specific to the rumen ecosystem is required for the rumen isolates we tested to produce AHLs or (b) a strain (or strains) that we were not able to culture but which grows to a high cell density in the rumen produces the AHLs we detected.

MeSH terms

  • 4-Butyrolactone / analogs & derivatives*
  • 4-Butyrolactone / analysis
  • Animals
  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena
  • Carboxylic Ester Hydrolases / metabolism
  • Cattle
  • Chromatography, Thin Layer
  • Ecosystem
  • Gram-Negative Anaerobic Bacteria / enzymology*
  • Gram-Negative Anaerobic Bacteria / growth & development
  • Rumen / microbiology*
  • Signal Transduction


  • Carboxylic Ester Hydrolases
  • N-acyl homoserine lactonase
  • 4-Butyrolactone