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Trends Microbiol. 2004 Aug;12(8):366-72.

Bacterial linguistic communication and social intelligence.

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1
School of Physics and Astronomy, The Raymond and Beverly Sackler Faculty of Exact Sciences, Tel-Aviv University, Tel-Aviv 69978, Israel. eshel@tamar.ac.il

Abstract

Bacteria have developed intricate communication capabilities (e.g. quorum-sensing, chemotactic signaling and plasmid exchange) to cooperatively self-organize into highly structured colonies with elevated environmental adaptability. We propose that bacteria use their intracellular flexibility, involving signal transduction networks and genomic plasticity, to collectively maintain linguistic communication: self and shared interpretations of chemical cues, exchange of chemical messages (semantic) and dialogues (pragmatic). Meaning-based communication permits colonial identity, intentional behavior (e.g. pheromone-based courtship for mating), purposeful alteration of colony structure (e.g. formation of fruiting bodies), decision-making (e.g. to sporulate) and the recognition and identification of other colonies - features we might begin to associate with a bacterial social intelligence. Such a social intelligence, should it exist, would require going beyond communication to encompass unknown additional intracellular processes to generate inheritable colonial memory and commonly shared genomic context.

PMID:
15276612
DOI:
10.1016/j.tim.2004.06.006
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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