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Trends Microbiol. 2005 Jan;13(1):27-33.

Sociomicrobiology: the connections between quorum sensing and biofilms.

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Department of Microbiology, The University of Iowa, 540 EMRB, Iowa City, IA 52242-1109, USA.


In the past decade, significant debate has surrounded the relative contributions of genetic determinants versus environmental conditions to certain types of human behavior. While this debate goes on, it is with a certain degree of irony that microbiologists studying aspects of bacterial community behavior face the same questions. Information regarding two social phenomena exhibited by bacteria, quorum sensing and biofilm development, is reviewed here. These two topics have been inextricably linked, possibly because biofilms and quorum sensing represent two areas in which microbiologists focus on social aspects of bacteria. We will examine what is known about this linkage and discuss areas that might be developed. In addition, we believe that these two aspects of bacterial behavior represent a small part of the social repertoire of bacteria. Bacteria exhibit many social activities and they represent a model for dissecting social behavior at the genetic level. Therefore, we introduce the term 'sociomicrobiology'.

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