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Nat Commun. 2016 Sep 30;7:12984. doi: 10.1038/ncomms12984.

Chemotaxis towards autoinducer 2 mediates autoaggregation in Escherichia coli.

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Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology and LOEWE Center for Synthetic Microbiology (SYNMIKRO), Karl-von-Frisch Strasse 16, 35043 Marburg, Germany.


Bacteria communicate by producing and sensing extracellular signal molecules called autoinducers. Such intercellular signalling, known as quorum sensing, allows bacteria to coordinate and synchronize behavioural responses at high cell densities. Autoinducer 2 (AI-2) is the only known quorum-sensing molecule produced by Escherichia coli but its physiological role remains elusive, although it is known to regulate biofilm formation and virulence in other bacterial species. Here we show that chemotaxis towards self-produced AI-2 can mediate collective behaviour-autoaggregation-of E. coli. Autoaggregation requires motility and is strongly enhanced by chemotaxis to AI-2 at physiological cell densities. These effects are observed regardless whether cell-cell interactions under particular growth conditions are mediated by the major E. coli adhesin (antigen 43) or by curli fibres. Furthermore, AI-2-dependent autoaggregation enhances bacterial stress resistance and promotes biofilm formation.

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