Quorum sensing: How bacteria can coordinate activity and synchronize their response to external signals?

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Quorum sensing is used by a large variety of bacteria to regulate gene expression in a cell-density-dependent manner. Bacteria can synchronize population behavior using small molecules called autoinducers that are produced by cognate synthases and recognized by specific receptors. Quorum sensing plays critical roles in regulating diverse cellular functions in bacteria, including bioluminescence, virulence gene expression, biofilm formation, and antibiotic resistance. The best-studied autoinducers are acyl homoserine lactone (AHL) molecules, which are the primary quorum sensing signals used by Gram-negative bacteria. In this review we focus on the AHL-dependent quorum sensing system and highlight recent progress on structural and mechanistic studies of AHL synthases and the corresponding receptors. Crystal structures of LuxI-type AHL synthases provide insights into acyl-substrate specificity, but the current knowledge is still greatly limited. Structural studies of AHL receptors have facilitated a more thorough understanding of signal perception and established the molecular framework for the development of quorum sensing inhibitors. Published by Wiley-Blackwell.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1403-1417
Number of pages15
JournalProtein Science
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2012


  • Acyl homoserine lactone
  • Bacterial signalling
  • Quorum sensing
  • Synthase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


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