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. 2018 May 22;9(3):e02331-17.
doi: 10.1128/mBio.02331-17.

Bacterial Quorum Sensing and Microbial Community Interactions

Free PMC article

Bacterial Quorum Sensing and Microbial Community Interactions

Rhea G Abisado et al. mBio. .
Free PMC article

Erratum in


Many bacteria use a cell-cell communication system called quorum sensing to coordinate population density-dependent changes in behavior. Quorum sensing involves production of and response to diffusible or secreted signals, which can vary substantially across different types of bacteria. In many species, quorum sensing modulates virulence functions and is important for pathogenesis. Over the past half-century, there has been a significant accumulation of knowledge of the molecular mechanisms, signal structures, gene regulons, and behavioral responses associated with quorum-sensing systems in diverse bacteria. More recent studies have focused on understanding quorum sensing in the context of bacterial sociality. Studies of the role of quorum sensing in cooperative and competitive microbial interactions have revealed how quorum sensing coordinates interactions both within a species and between species. Such studies of quorum sensing as a social behavior have relied on the development of "synthetic ecological" models that use nonclonal bacterial populations. In this review, we discuss some of these models and recent advances in understanding how microbes might interact with one another using quorum sensing. The knowledge gained from these lines of investigation has the potential to guide studies of microbial sociality in natural settings and the design of new medicines and therapies to treat bacterial infections.

Keywords: antibiotics; coculture; competition; cooperation; quorum sensing.


(A) AHL quorum sensing in Vibrio fischeri. AHL signals (AHLs [solid blue circles]) are synthesized by LuxI family signal synthases and specifically interact with LuxR family transcription factors. When the population reaches high cell density, accumulated AHLs interact with LuxR homologues. AHL interaction causes the LuxR protein to change conformation and become active, which induces target gene regulation. In V. fisheri, LuxI and LuxR produce and respond to, respectively, the AHL N-3-oxo-acyl-homoserine lactone (3OC6-HSL). (B) Structure 1, the Vibrio fischeri AHL, 3OC6-HSL. AHLs can vary in the side chain length and substitution at the third carbon position of the acyl chain, and this variation dictates the specificity of the system. (C) Structure 2, Vibrio harveyi and Vibrio cholerae AI-2, furanosyl borate ester form. Structure 3, Staphylococcus aureus autoinducing peptide (AIP-1). The letters in the balls indicate amino acids that are cyclized posttranslationally.

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