Bacterial quorum sensing, cooperativity, and anticipation of stationary-phase stress

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Nov 27;109(48):19775-80. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1218092109. Epub 2012 Nov 12.


Acyl-homoserine lactone-mediated quorum sensing (QS) regulates diverse activities in many species of Proteobacteria. QS-controlled genes commonly code for production of secreted or excreted public goods. The acyl-homoserine lactones are synthesized by members of the LuxI signal synthase family and are detected by cognate members of the LuxR family of transcriptional regulators. QS affords a means of population density-dependent gene regulation. Control of public goods via QS provides a fitness benefit. Another potential role for QS is to anticipate overcrowding. As population density increases and stationary phase approaches, QS might induce functions important for existence in stationary phase. Here we provide evidence that in three related species of the genus Burkholderia QS allows individuals to anticipate and survive stationary-phase stress. Survival requires QS-dependent activation of cellular enzymes required for production of excreted oxalate, which serves to counteract ammonia-mediated alkaline toxicity during stationary phase. Our findings provide an example of QS serving as a means to anticipate stationary phase or life at the carrying capacity of a population by activating the expression of cytoplasmic enzymes, altering cellular metabolism, and producing a shared resource or public good, oxalate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Burkholderia / genetics
  • Burkholderia / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Mutation
  • Oxalates / metabolism
  • Quorum Sensing*


  • Oxalates

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE36485