Bulletin of Mathematical Biology

, Volume 78, Issue 8, pp 1585–1639 | Cite as

Mathematical Modelling of Bacterial Quorum Sensing: A Review

  • Judith Pérez-VelázquezEmail author
  • Meltem Gölgeli
  • Rodolfo García-Contreras
Review Article


Bacterial quorum sensing (QS) refers to the process of cell-to-cell bacterial communication enabled through the production and sensing of the local concentration of small molecules called autoinducers to regulate the production of gene products (e.g. enzymes or virulence factors). Through autoinducers, bacteria interact with individuals of the same species, other bacterial species, and with their host. Among QS-regulated processes mediated through autoinducers are aggregation, biofilm formation, bioluminescence, and sporulation. Autoinducers are therefore “master” regulators of bacterial lifestyles. For over 10 years, mathematical modelling of QS has sought, in parallel to experimental discoveries, to elucidate the mechanisms regulating this process. In this review, we present the progress in mathematical modelling of QS, highlighting the various theoretical approaches that have been used and discussing some of the insights that have emerged. Modelling of QS has benefited almost from the onset of the involvement of experimentalists, with many of the papers which we review, published in non-mathematical journals. This review therefore attempts to give a broad overview of the topic to the mathematical biology community, as well as the current modelling efforts and future challenges.


Bacteria Communication Quorum sensing Antibacterial Autoinducers Mathematical modelling Simulations 

Mathematics Subject Classification

05C38 15A15 05A15 15A18 



RGC was supported by a grant from SEP/CONACyT-Mexico No. 152794. JPV wants to thank Stephen Starck (TUM) for his patience and help revising the document.


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Copyright information

© Society for Mathematical Biology 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Computational BiologyHelmholtz Zentrum München, German Research Center for Environmental HealthNeuherbergGermany
  2. 2.Centre for Mathematical ScienceTechnical University MunichGarchingGermany
  3. 3.Department of Molecular Biology and GeneticsBilkent UniversityAnkaraTurkey
  4. 4.Departamento de Microbiología y Parasitología, Facultad de MedicinaUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad UniversitariaCiudad de MéxicoMexico

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