Controlling infection by tuning in and turning down the volume of bacterial small-talk

Lancet Infect Dis. 2002 Nov;2(11):667-76. doi: 10.1016/s1473-3099(02)00447-4.


As the prevalence of bacterial resistance to multiple antibiotics increases it is becoming progressively more difficult to treat infections and, in many cases, the available therapeutic options are severely limited. Hence, there is a growing urgency to the search for novel targets and the development of new antimicrobials. To infect a host and cause disease bacteria produce an array of virulence determinants that contribute to pathogenesis. It is now known that many different Gram-positive and Gram-negative pathogens communicate via the production and sensing of small, diffusible signal molecules, to coordinate virulence determinant production. As a consequence, this event, now termed quorum sensing, represents a novel therapeutic target offering the opportunity to attenuate virulence, and thus control infection, by blocking cell-to-cell communication.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • 4-Butyrolactone / analogs & derivatives
  • 4-Butyrolactone / physiology
  • Animals
  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena*
  • Drug Design
  • Drug Resistance
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / chemistry
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / pathogenicity
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / chemistry
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / pathogenicity
  • Humans
  • Infections / microbiology*
  • Infections / therapy
  • Ligases / metabolism
  • Pheromones / chemistry
  • Pheromones / physiology
  • Regulon / physiology*
  • Virulence / genetics


  • Pheromones
  • Ligases
  • N-acylhomoserine lactone synthase
  • 4-Butyrolactone