Quorum sensing by peptide pheromones and two-component signal-transduction systems in Gram-positive bacteria

Mol Microbiol. 1997 Jun;24(5):895-904. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2958.1997.4251782.x.


Cell-density-dependent gene expression appears to be widely spread in bacteria. This quorum-sensing phenomenon has been well established in Gram-negative bacteria, where N-acyl homoserine lactones are the diffusible communication molecules that modulate cell-density-dependent phenotypes. Similarly, a variety of processes are known to be regulated in a cell-density- or growth-phase-dependent manner in Gram-positive bacteria. Examples of such quorum-sensing modes in Gram-positive bacteria are the development of genetic competence in Bacillus subtilis and Streptococcus pneumoniae, the virulence response in Staphylococcus aureus, and the production of antimicrobial peptides by several species of Gram-positive bacteria including lactic acid bacteria. Cell-density-dependent regulatory modes in these systems appear to follow a common theme, in which the signal molecule is a post-translationally processed peptide that is secreted by a dedicated ATP-binding-cassette exporter. This secreted peptide pheromone functions as the input signal for a specific sensor component of a two-component signal-transduction system. Moreover, genetic linkage of the common elements involved results in autoregulation of peptide-pheromone production.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / biosynthesis
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Bacteriocins
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / genetics
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / pathogenicity
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nisin / biosynthesis
  • Peptides / metabolism*
  • Pheromones / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Virulence


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Bacteriocins
  • Peptides
  • Pheromones
  • Nisin
  • epidermin
  • subtilin