Single cell time-resolved quorum responses reveal dependence on cell density and configuration

J Biol Chem. 2011 Jun 17;286(24):21623-32. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M111.239897. Epub 2011 Apr 28.


Bacterial communication via quorum sensing has been extensively investigated in recent years. Bacteria communicate in a complex manner through the production, release, and reception of diffusible low molecular weight chemical signaling molecules. Much work has focused on understanding the basic mechanisms of quorum sensing. As more and more bacteria grow resistant to conventional antibiotics, the development of drugs that do not kill bacteria but instead interrupt their communication is of increasing interest. This study presents a method for analyzing bacterial communication by investigating single cell responses. Most conventional analysis methods for bacterial communication are based on the averaged response from many bacteria, masking how individual cells respond to their immediate environment. We applied a fiber-optic microarray to record cellular communication from single cells. Single cell quorum sensing systems have previously been employed, but the highly ordered array reported here is an improvement because it allows us to simultaneously investigate cellular communication in many different environments with known cellular densities and configurations. We employed this method to detect how genes under quorum regulation are induced or repressed over time on the single cell level and to determine whether cellular density and configuration are indicative of the single cell temporal patterns of gene expression.

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Biophysics / methods
  • Cell Communication
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Fiber Optic Technology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Models, Biological
  • Models, Chemical
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Quorum Sensing / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Bacterial Proteins