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Applied and Environmental Microbiology
78, No. 16, 2012; Pages: 5473 - 5482

Quorum Sensing in the Context of Food Microbiology

Panagiotis N. Skandamis and George-John E. Nychas

Department of Food Science & Technology, Agricultural University of Athens, Athens, Greece.

Food spoilage may be defined as a process that renders a product undesirable or unacceptable for consumption and is the outcome of the biochemical activity of a microbial community that eventually dominates according to the prevailing ecological determinants. Although limited information are reported, this activity has been attributed to quorum sensing (QS). Consequently, the potential role of cell-to-cell communication in food spoilage and food safety should be more extensively elucidated. Such information would be helpful in designing approaches for manipulating these communication systems, thereby reducing or preventing, for instance, spoilage reactions or even controlling the expression of virulence factors. Due to the many reports in the literature on the fundamental features of QS, e.g., chemistry and definitions of QS compounds, in this minireview, we only allude to the types and chemistry of QS signaling molecules per se and to the (bioassay-based) methods of their detection and quantification, avoiding extensive documentation. Conversely, we attempt to provide insights into (i) the role of QS in food spoilage, (ii) the factors that may quench the activity of QS in foods and review the potential QS inhibitors that might “mislead” the bacterial coordination of spoilage activities and thus may be used as biopreservatives, and (iii) the future experimental approaches that need to be undertaken in order to explore the “gray” or “black” areas of QS, increase our understanding of how QS affects microbial behavior in foods, and assist in finding answers as to how we can exploit QS for the benefit of food preservation and food safety.




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