Cell-to-cell signalling in Escherichia coli and Salmonella enterica

Mol Microbiol. 2004 May;52(4):933-45. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2004.04054.x.


Cell-to-cell signalling in prokaryotes that leads to co-ordinated behaviour has been termed quorum sensing. This type of signalling can have profound impacts on microbial community structure and host-microbe interactions. The Gram-negative quorum-sensing systems were first discovered and extensively characterized in the marine Vibrios. Some components of the Vibrio systems are present in the classical genetic model organisms Escherichia coli and Salmonella enterica. Both organisms encode a signal receptor of the LuxR family, SdiA, but not a corresponding signal-generating enzyme. Instead, SdiA of Salmonella detects and responds to signals generated only by other microbial species. Conversely, E. coli and Salmonella encode the signal-generating component of a second system (a LuxS homologue that generates AI-2), but the sensory apparatus for AI-2 differs substantially from the Vibrio system. The only genes currently known to be regulated by AI-2 in Salmonella encode an active uptake and modification system for AI-2. Therefore, it is not yet clear whether Salmonella uses AI-2 as a signal molecule or whether AI-2 has some other function. In E. coli, the functions of both SdiA and AI-2 are unclear due to pleiotropy. Genetic strategies to identify novel signalling systems have been performed with E. coli and Providencia stuartii. Several putative signalling systems have been identified, one that uses indole as a signal and another that releases what appears to be a peptide. The latter system has homologues in E. coli and Salmonella, as well as other bacteria, plants and animals. In fact, the protease components from Providencia and Drosophila are functionally interchangeable.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / physiology
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Escherichia coli / growth & development
  • Escherichia coli / physiology*
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / genetics
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / physiology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Homoserine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Homoserine / physiology
  • Lactones
  • Salmonella enterica / genetics
  • Salmonella enterica / growth & development
  • Salmonella enterica / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Trans-Activators / genetics
  • Trans-Activators / physiology
  • Vibrio / genetics
  • Vibrio / physiology


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • Lactones
  • N-octanoylhomoserine lactone
  • SdiA protein, bacteria
  • Trans-Activators
  • sdiA protein, E coli
  • Homoserine