Quorum sensing and the confusion about diffusion

Stuart A. West*, Klaus Winzer, Andy Gardner, Stephen P. Diggle

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

100 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Two hypotheses, termed quorum sensing (QS) and diffusion sensing (DS), have been suggested as competing explanations for why bacterial cells use the local concentration of small molecules to regulate numerous extracellular behaviours. Here, we show that: (i) although there are important differences between QS and DS, they are not diametrically opposed; (ii) empirical attempts to distinguish between QS and DS are misguided and will lead to confusion; (iii) the fundamental distinction is not between QS and DS, but whether or not the trait being examined is social; (iv) empirical data are consistent with both social interactions and a role of diffusion; (v) alternate hypotheses, such as efficiency sensing (ES), are not required to unite QS and DS. More generally, work in this area illustrates how the use of jargon can obscure the underlying concepts and key questions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)586-594
Number of pages9
JournalTrends in Microbiology
Volume20
Issue number12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012

Keywords

  • autoinduction
  • autoregulation
  • communication
  • exofactors
  • inclusive fitnesssignals
  • PSEUDOMONAS-AERUGINOSA
  • STAPHYLOCOCCUS-AUREUS
  • BACTERIAL-POPULATIONS
  • PATHOGENIC BACTERIA
  • SOCIAL EVOLUTION
  • VIRULENCE FACTORS
  • SIGNAL MOLECULES
  • GROUP SELECTION
  • COOPERATION
  • AGR

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