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Sci Rep
Vol. 6, 2016, Page: 33115

Resilience of bacterial quorum sensing against fluid flow

Philippe Emge, Jens Moeller, Hongchul Jang, Roberto Rusconi, Yutaka Yawata, Roman Stocker, and Viola Voge

Laboratory of Applied Mechanobiology, Department of Health Sciences and Technology, ETH Zurich, 8093 Zurich, Switzerland.


Quorum sensing (QS) is a population-density dependent chemical process that enables bacteria to communicate based on the production, secretion and sensing of small inducer molecules. While recombinant constructs have been widely used to decipher the molecular details of QS, how those findings translate to natural QS systems has remained an open question. Here, we compare the activation of natural and synthetic Pseudomonas aeruginosa LasI/R QS systems in bacteria exposed to quiescent conditions and controlled flows. Quantification of QS-dependent GFP expression in suspended cultures and in surface-attached microcolonies revealed that QS onset in both systems was similar under quiescent conditions but markedly differed under flow. Moderate flow (Pe>25) was sufficient to suppress LasI/R QS recombinantly expressed in Escherichia coli, whereas only high flow (Pe>102) suppressed QS in wild-type Paeruginosa. We suggest that this difference stems from the differential production of extracellular matrix and that the matrix confers resilience against moderate flow to QS in wild-type organisms. These results suggest that the expression of a biofilm matrix extends the environmental conditions under which QS-based cell-cell communication is effective and that findings from synthetic QS circuits cannot be directly translated to natural systems.

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