Cell-to-cell signaling in intestinal pathogens

Juliana P. Falcão, Faith Sharp, Vanessa Sperandio

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


In the conventional view of prokaryotic life, bacteria live a unicellular existence, with responses to external stimuli limited to the detection of chemical and physical signals of environmental origin. This view of bacteriology is now recognized as overly simplistic, because bacteria communicate with each other through small "hormone-like" organic compounds referred to as autoinducers (Als). These bacterial cell-to-cell signaling systems were initially described as mechanisms through which bacteria regulate gene expression via cell density, and, therefore, they have been named quorum sensing. When the Als reach a threshold concentration, they interact with regulatory proteins, thereby driving bacterial gene expression. Bacterial intercellular communication provides a mechanism for the regulation of gene expression resulting in coordinated population behavior. The functions controlled by quorum sensing are varied and reflect the needs of a particular species of bacteria inhabiting a given niche. Quorum sensing-controlled processes include bioluminescence, virulence factor expression, biofilm development, and conjugation among others. Enteric pathogens use quorum sensing to regulate genes involved in virulence, such as motility, and type III secretion. Quorum sensing is utilized to sense the presence of the normal intestinal flora and to warrant successful colonization of the host.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9-18
Number of pages10
JournalCurrent Issues in Intestinal Microbiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Microbiology (medical)


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