Acyl-homoserine lactone quorum sensing: from evolution to application

Annu Rev Microbiol. 2013;67:43-63. doi: 10.1146/annurev-micro-092412-155635. Epub 2013 May 15.


Quorum sensing (QS) is a widespread process in bacteria that employs autoinducing chemical signals to coordinate diverse, often cooperative activities such as bioluminescence, biofilm formation, and exoenzyme secretion. Signaling via acyl-homoserine lactones is the paradigm for QS in Proteobacteria and is particularly well understood in the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Despite thirty years of mechanistic research, empirical studies have only recently addressed the benefits of QS and provided support for the traditional assumptions regarding its social nature and its role in optimizing cell-density-dependent group behaviors. QS-controlled public-goods production has served to investigate principles that explain the evolution and stability of cooperation, including kin selection, pleiotropic constraints, and metabolic prudence. With respect to medical application, appreciating social dynamics is pertinent to understanding the efficacy of QS-inhibiting drugs and the evolution of resistance. Future work will provide additional insight into the foundational assumptions of QS and relate laboratory discoveries to natural ecosystems.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acyl-Butyrolactones / metabolism*
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena*
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Industrial Microbiology
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / genetics
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / metabolism
  • Quorum Sensing*


  • Acyl-Butyrolactones