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FEMS Microbiol Lett. 2002 Jan 22;207(1):1-7.

Direct detection of N-acylhomoserine lactones in cystic fibrosis sputum.

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School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Nottingham, University Park, NG7 2RD, UK.


Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Burkholderia cepacia cause destructive lung disease in cystic fibrosis (CF) patients. Both pathogens employ 'quorum sensing', i.e. cell-to-cell communication, via diffusible N-acyl-L-homoserine lactone (AHL) signal molecules, to regulate the production of a number of virulence determinants in vitro. However, to date, evidence that quorum sensing systems are functional and play a role in vivo is lacking. This study presents the first direct evidence for the presence of AHLs in CF sputum. A total of 42 samples from 25 CF patients were analysed using lux-based Escherichia coli AHL biosensors. AHLs were detected in sputum from patients colonised by P. aeruginosa or B. cepacia but not Staphylococcus aureus. Furthermore, using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry and thin layer chromatography, we confirmed the presence of N-hexanoylhomoserine lactone and N-(3-oxododecanoyl)homoserine lactone respectively in sputum samples from patients colonised by P. aeruginosa.

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