2008, pp 179-232

Quorum Sensing

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Bacteria use small molecule signals to communicate with each other. Intercellular signalling at high population cell densities is termed quorum sensing and explains many aspects of bacterial physiology observed in single species cultures entering stationary phase in the laboratory. Quorum sensing is used by diverse species to control a multitude of phenotypic traits that often include virulence factors (e.g., exoenzymes) and secondary metabolites (e.g., antibiotics and biosurfactants). In this review, diversity in the biochemistry and molecular biology of signal production, signal sensing, and signal response are introduced. The elucidation of the roles of quorum sensing in bacterial virulence and in biofilm formation will be used to illustrate experimental approaches commonly used. The understanding of quorum sensing obtained in vitro will be considered in the light of studies describing the activities of bacteria in the real situations of infection and biofilm formation. The relevance of quorum sensing to the activities of bacteria in real situations is discussed, taking into account the role of (1) other bacterial species; (2) the host; and (3) changes in other, nonsignalling, parameters within the environment.