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Contrib Microbiol. 2009;16:18-32. doi: 10.1159/000219371. Epub 2009 Jun 2.

Autoinducer-2-based chemical communication in bacteria: complexities of interspecies signaling.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Immunology, College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL 60607, USA.


Cell-cell communication in bacteria, called quorum sensing, relies on production, release, and detection of signaling molecules, termed autoinducers. Communication enables populations of cells to synchronize gene expression and therefore behave as a group in a manner akin to cells in multicellular organisms. Most quorum-sensing systems allow communication within an individual species of bacteria. However, one autoinducer, called AI-2, is produced and recognized by many different bacterial species, indicating that some bacteria communicate across species boundaries. Current studies are aimed at discovering the role that AI-2 plays in gene regulation. Differential gene expression in response to AI-2 may cause bacterial behavioral changes, such as biofilm formation or transition to a pathogenic state. Interestingly, multiple mechanisms to detect AI-2 exist. These differences likely reflect variations in the role that AI-2 plays for different bacteria. Additionally, structural analyses of the AI-2 receptor in V. harveyi have provided insight into bacterial trans-membrane signal transduction. A further understanding of bacterial quorum-sensing processes may facilitate development of new technologies aimed at interfering with bacterial communication and virulence.

Copyright (c) 2009 S. Karger AG, Basel.

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