Article

Quantifying the Integration of Quorum-Sensing Signals with Single-Cell Resolution

Department of Physics, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, USA.
PLoS Biology (Impact Factor: 11.77). 04/2009; 7(3):e68. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1000068
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Author Summary

Although bacteria are unicellular, the individual cells communicate with each other via small diffusible molecules. This communication process, known as quorum sensing, allows groups of bacteria to track the density of the population they are in, synchronize gene expression across the population, and thereby carry out collective activities similar to those of cells in multi-cellular organisms. Many bacterial species use multiple signaling molecules, but it remains a mystery why multiple signals are required and how the information encoded in them is integrated by bacteria. To explore these questions, we studied a model quorum-sensing bacterium Vibrio harveyi. Using single-cell fluorescence microscopy, we quantified quorum-sensing responses and analyzed the mechanism of integration of multiple signals. Surprisingly, we found that information from two distinct signals is combined strictly additively, with precisely equal weight from each signal. Our results revealed a coherent response across the population with little cell-to-cell variation, allowing the entire population of bacterial cells to reliably distinguish multiple environmental states. We argue that multiple signals and multiple response states could be used to distinguish distinct stages in the development of a bacterial community.

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