Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 42, Issue 12, pp 1201–1211 | Cite as

Quorum Sensing and Quorum Quenching in the Phycosphere of Phytoplankton: a Case of Chemical Interactions in Ecology

  • Jean luc Rolland
  • Didier Stien
  • Sophie Sanchez-Ferandin
  • Raphaël Lami
Review Article


The interactions between bacteria and phytoplankton regulate many important biogeochemical reactions in the marine environment, including those in the global carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur cycles. At the microscopic level, it is now well established that important consortia of bacteria colonize the phycosphere, the immediate environment of phytoplankton cells. In this microscale environment, abundant bacterial cells are organized in a structured biofilm, and exchange information through the diffusion of small molecules called semiochemicals. Among these processes, quorum sensing plays a particular role as, when a sufficient abundance of cells is reached, it allows bacteria to coordinate their gene expression and physiology at the population level. In contrast, quorum quenching mechanisms are employed by many different types of microorganisms that limit the coordination of antagonistic bacteria. This review synthesizes quorum sensing and quorum quenching mechanisms evidenced to date in the phycosphere, emphasizing the implications that these signaling systems have for the regulation of bacterial communities and their activities. The diversity of chemical compounds involved in these processes is examined. We further review the bacterial functions regulated in the phycosphere by quorum sensing, which include biofilm formation, nutrient acquisition, and emission of algaecides. We also discuss quorum quenching compounds as antagonists of quorum sensing, their function in the phycosphere, and their potential biotechnological applications. Overall, the current state of the art demonstrates that quorum sensing and quorum quenching regulate a balance between a symbiotic and a parasitic way of life between bacteria and their phytoplankton host.


Quorum sensing Quorum quenching Phytoplankton Phycosphere 



We thank the CNRS for funding this research (grant EC2CO-ROSEOCOM) and Sheree Yau for her help in English grammar and spelling.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Interactions-Hôtes-Pathogènes-Environnements (IHPE), Ifremer, CNRS, UPVDUniversité de Montpellier, UMR 5244MontpellierFrance
  2. 2.Sorbonne Universités, UPMC Univ Paris 06, CNRS, Laboratoire de Biodiversité et Biotechnologies Microbiennes (LBBM), Observatoire OcéanologiqueBanyuls-sur-MerFrance
  3. 3.Sorbonne Universités, UPMC Univ Paris 06, CNRS, Laboratoire de Biologie Intégrative des Organismes Marins (BIOM), Observatoire OcéanologiqueBanyuls-sur-MerFrance

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