Use of Whole-Cell Bioassays for Screening Quorum Signaling, Quorum Interference, and Biofilm Dispersion

Part of the Methods in Molecular Biology book series (MIMB, volume 1673)


In most bacteria, a global level of regulation, termed quorum sensing (QS), exists involving intercellular communication via the production and response to cell density-dependent signal molecules. QS has been associated with a number of important features in bacteria including virulence regulation and biofilm formation. Consequently, there is considerable interest in understanding, detecting, and inhibiting QS. N-acylated homoserine lactones (AHLs) are used as extracellular QS signals by a variety of Gram-negative bacteria. Chromobacterium violaceum, commonly found in soil and water, produces the characteristic purple pigment violacein, regulated by AHL-mediated QS. Based on this readily observed pigmentation phenotype, C. violaceum strains can be used to detect various aspects of AHL-mediated QS activity. In another commonly used bioassay organism, Agrobacterium tumefaciens, QS can be detected by the use of a reporter gene such as lacZ. Here, we describe several commonly used approaches incorporating C. violaceum and A. tumefaciens that can be used to detect AHL and QS inhibitors. Due to the inherent low susceptibility of biofilm bacteria to antimicrobial agents, biofilm dispersion, whereby bacteria reenter the planktonic community, is another increasingly important area of research. At least one signal, distinct from traditional QS, has been identified and there are a variety of other environmental factors that also trigger dispersion. We describe a microtiter-based experimental strategy whereby potential biofilm dispersion compounds can be screened.

Key words

Quorum sensing N-acyl homoserine lactones Violacein Chromobacterium violaceum Agrobacterium tumefaciens Biofilm dispersion 



We are grateful to Clay Fuqua and Steve Winans for providing these strains and introducing us to quorum signaling. We are also grateful to Karin Sauer for introducing us to biofilm dispersion. Work in RJCM’s laboratory is supported by grants from NASA (NNX17AC79G), the Texas State University Research Enhancement Program, and the Biology Department at Texas State University.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media LLC 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyTexas State UniversitySan MarcosUSA

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