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Ann Bot. 2002 Mar;89(3):245-53.

Altering plant-microbe interaction through artificially manipulating bacterial quorum sensing.

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  • 1School of Biological Sciences, Nottingham University, Loughborough, UK.


Many bacteria regulate diverse physiological processes in concert with their population size. Bacterial cell-to-cell communication utilizes small diffusible signal molecules, which the bacteria both produce and perceive. The bacteria couple gene expression to cell density by eliciting a response only when the signalling molecules reach a critical threshold (a point at which the population is said to be 'quorate'). The population as a whole is thus able to modify its behaviour as a single unit. Amongst Gram-negative bacteria, the quorum sensing signals most commonly used are N-acylhomoserine lactones (AHLs). It is now apparent that AHLs are used for regulating diverse behaviours in epiphytic, rhizosphere-inhabiting and plant pathogenic bacteria and that plants may produce their own metabolites that interfere with this signalling. Transgenic plants that produce high levels of AHLs or which can degrade bacterial-produced AHLs have been made. These plants have dramatically altered susceptibilities to infection by pathogenic Erwinia species. In addition, such plants will prove useful tools in determining the roles of AHL-regulated density-dependent behaviour in growth promoting, biological control and pathogenic plant-associated bacterial species.

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