, Volume 387, Issue 2, pp 455-467
Date: 13 Dec 2006

Identification of bacterial N-acylhomoserine lactones (AHLs) with a combination of ultra-performance liquid chromatography (UPLC), ultra-high-resolution mass spectrometry, and in-situ biosensors

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N-Acylated homoserine lactones (AHLs) are produced by Gram-negative bacteria as communication signals and are frequently studied as mediators of the “quorum sensing” response of bacterial communities. Several reports have recently been published on the identification of AHLs from different species and attempts have been made to study their role in natural habitats, for example the surface of plant roots in the rhizosphere. In this article, different analytical methods, including bacterial biosensors and chromatographic techniques, are reviewed. A concept for assignment of the structures of AHLs is also presented. The retention behaviour of derivatives of AHLs containing β-keto or hydroxyl groups and/or double bonds has been evaluated in relation to the separation behaviour of AHLs with saturated and unsubstituted alkanoyl chains. Samples have also been analysed by high resolution mass spectrometry (Fourier-transform ion-cyclotron-resonance mass spectrometry, FTICR-MS), nano liquid chromatography–electrospray ionization ion trap mass spectrometry (nano-LC–MS) and by the aid of a biosensor. The results obtained from ultra performance liquid chromatography (UPLC), FTICR-MS, nano-LC–MS, and bioassays have been compared to attempt structural characterisation of AHL without chemical synthesis of analytical standards. The method was used to identify the major AHL compound produced by the rhizosphere bacterium Acidovorax sp. N35 as N-(3-hydroxydecanoyl)homoserine lactone.