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Nat Rev Microbiol. 2007 Mar;5(3):230-9.

Does efficiency sensing unify diffusion and quorum sensing?

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Institute of Biomathematics and Biometry, GSF-National Research Center for Environment and Health, Ingolstaedter Landstrasse 1, D85764 Neuherberg/Munich, Germany.


Quorum sensing faces evolutionary problems from non-producing or over-producing cheaters. Such problems are circumvented in diffusion sensing, an alternative explanation for quorum sensing. However, both explanations face the problems of signalling in complex environments such as the rhizosphere where, for example, the spatial distribution of cells can be more important for sensing than cell density, which we show by mathematical modelling. We argue that these conflicting concepts can be unified by a new hypothesis, efficiency sensing, and that some of the problems associated with signalling in complex environments, as well as the problem of maintaining honesty in signalling, can be avoided when the signalling cells grow in microcolonies.

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