Abstract: Quorum sensing is a bacterial cell-cell communication process that relies on the production, detection, and group-wide response to extracellular signal molecules called autoinducers. Quorum sensing enables bacteria to synchronously alter behavior in response to changes in population density and species composition of the vicinal community. Often, quorum sensing controls virulence factor production and biofilm formation. We aim to make pro- and anti-quorum-sensing modulators to use as probes to further our basic research and to demonstrate their potential as novel therapeutics. In this realm, we discovered synthetic compounds that interfere with quorum sensing by acting on the transmembrane autoinducer receptors as well as on intracellular quorum-sensing signal transduction components. Structural analyses revealed both the natural and synthetic mechanisms by which these proteins are regulated. With respect to the role of quorum sensing in biofilm formation, we developed imaging technology capable of resolving and tracking individual cells in living, growing biofilms. We characterized the biofilm formation process of wild type and mutant strains in the presence of flow and under topographical conditions mimicking environmental, medical, and industrial systems. These studies connect the microscale structure of biofilms and their corresponding gene expression patterns with the macroscopic physical properties of biofilms, e.g. viscoelasticity, structural strength, resistance to invading cells, and impermeability to antibiotics.
Host: Hoekstra Lab
Co-sponsored by Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, and Molecular and Cellular Biology