Quorum-Sensing Signal Disperses Bacteria from Biofilms

Environmental Health Perspectives
November 1, 2012

UMCES Staff Cited:

Biofilms are complex bacterial communities that range from bioluminescent pools in oceans to plaque buildup on teeth. These communities use quorum-sensing signals to modify their behaviors for optimal resilience against potential threats. Now researchers who study biofilms that cohabitate with marine sponges have discovered a quorum-sensing signal that controls the formation of the flagellum, a corkscrew-like appendage that rotates and allows bacteria to swim away from a biofilm.1

"It was a total surprise," says Russell Hill, director of the University of Maryland's Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology in Baltimore. Generally, bacterial signaling acts in the opposite way: Bacteria use flagella to swim into areas where they accumulate to high concentrations. Then quorum sensing causes them to lose motility and become fixed in place. Typically, Hill explains, "They form a biofilm rather than leave a biofilm."


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