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Free Content Variations on a theme: diverse N-acyl homoserine lactone-mediated quorum sensing mechanisms in Gram-negative bacteria

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Many Gram-negative bacteria employ a mechanism of cell – cell communication known as quorum sensing (QS). The role of QS is to enable the cells in a culture to coordinate their gene expression profile with changes in the population cell density. The best characterized mechanisms of QS employ N-acylated homoserine lactones (AHLs) as signalling molecules. These AHLs are made by enzymes known as LuxI homologs, and accumulate in the culture supernatant at a rate proportional to the increase in cell density. Once the AHL concentration exceeds a certain threshold value, these ligands bind to intracellular receptors known as LuxR homologs. The latter are transcriptional regulators, whose activity alters upon binding the AHL ligand, thereby eliciting a change in gene transcription. Over the last five years, it has become increasingly obvious that this is a rather simplistic view of AHL-dependent QS, and that in fact, there is considerable diversity in the way in which LuxI-R homologs operate. The aim of the current review is to describe these variations on the basic theme, and to show how functional genomics is revolutionizing our understanding of QS-controlled regulons.
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Keywords: LuxI; LuxR; N-acyl homoserine lactones; biofilms; cell-cell communication; quorum sensing; signal transduction

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Biochemistry, Building O, Tennis Court Road, Cambridge CB2 1QW, UK

Publication date: 15 August 2006

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