Bacterial Quorum Sensing During Infection

Annu Rev Microbiol. 2020 Sep 8:74:201-219. doi: 10.1146/annurev-micro-032020-093845. Epub 2020 Jul 13.


Bacteria are highly interactive and possess an extraordinary repertoire of intercellular communication and social behaviors, including quorum sensing (QS). QS has been studied in detail at the molecular level, so mechanistic details are well understood in many species and are often involved in virulence. The use of different animal host models has demonstrated QS-dependent control of virulence determinants and virulence in several human pathogenic bacteria. QS also controls virulence in several plant pathogenic species. Despite the role QS plays in virulence during animal and plant laboratory-engineered infections, QS mutants are frequently isolated from natural infections, demonstrating that the function of QS during infection and its role in pathogenesis remain poorly understood and are fruitful areas for future research. We discuss the role of QS during infection in various organisms and highlight approaches to better understand QS during human infection. This is an important consideration in an era of growing antimicrobial resistance, when we are looking for new ways to target bacterial infections.

Keywords: cell–cell signaling; pathogen; quorum sensing; virulence.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Bacteria / pathogenicity
  • Bacterial Infections / metabolism*
  • Bacterial Infections / microbiology
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Quorum Sensing / genetics
  • Quorum Sensing / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Virulence
  • Virulence Factors


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Virulence Factors