Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A Matter of Density, Not Quantity

10.07.2009
Individual bacterial cells are capable of quorum sensing when confined in small volumes

Infections of wounds, pneumonia, etc. in hospitals in particular are often caused by bacteria called Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

Once they reach a certain density, colonies of Pseudomonas aeruginosa produce virulence factors and can enter into a slimy state, a biofilm, which prevents antibiotics from penetrating. The process of quorum sensing, which cells use to “sense” cell density, is triggered when the concentration of certain signaling compounds generated by the bacteria reaches a threshold level.

A team working with Rustem F. Ismagilov at the University of Chicago has now demonstrated that the absolute number of cells is irrelevant; only the number of bacteria in a given volume plays a role. As the researchers report in the journal Angewandte Chemie, they were even able to trigger quorum-sensing processes in single cells when these were confined in extremely small volumes.

The term, quorum sensing, is derived from the Latin quorum; in politics, this is the number of votes that must be cast for an election or referendum to be valid. In biology, quorum sensing is defined as a process by which cells are able to detect the accumulation of a released signal and then change their behavior when the signal concentration exceeds a threshold level.

Traditionally, quorum sensing is thought to help microorganisms to coordinate processes that would be inefficient in single cells, such as the formation of biofilms. Quorum sensing can also prevent too many bacteria from colonizing too small an area. However, the work of Ismagilov’s team has shown that quorum sensing is also activated by a single cell if the cell finds itself in an extremely enclosed space, which raises questions as to how quorum-sensing-regulated processes are relevant both to large colonies of cells and to single cells in confined spaces.

In order to investigate this phenomenon, two different approaches can be taken: either seed a macroscopic volume with bacteria and wait for them to reach the required population through cell division, or enclose a few cells in an extremely tiny volume. The necessary signaling compounds can also become sufficiently concentrated by this route because the released signals cannot diffuse far away from the cell but instead accumulate around the cell. “In the past, the first strategy has dominated. This has led to the general view that quorum sensing is a process to coordinate the behavior of large groups of cells,” says Ismagilov. “This overlooks the possibility that small groups of cells could also initiate quorum sensing if they are confined to a sufficiently small volume. The quorum-sensing metabolic processes are relevant to a number of cellular functions, including the growth of small numbers of cells at the early stages of biofilm formation or the early stages of an infection.”

By using a microfluidic experimental array, the team was able to isolate droplets with a volume of about 100 femtoliters (100 quadrillionths of a liter), each containing only one or very few cells of Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Even with these extremely low cell counts, the researchers were able to observe that quorum sensing was triggered in many cases. “This unambiguously refutes the notion that millions of cells are required for quorum sensing,” says Ismagilov.

Author: Rustem F. Ismagilov, University of Chicago (USA), http://ismagilovlab.uchicago.edu/index.html

Title: Microfluidic Confinement of Single Cells of Bacteria in Small Volumes Initiates High-Density Behavior of Quorum Sensing and Growth and Reveals Its Variability

Angewandte Chemie International Edition 2009, 48, No. 32, doi: 10.1002/anie.200901550

Rustem F. Ismagilov | Angewandte Chemie
Further information:
http://ismagilovlab.uchicago.edu/index.html
http://pressroom.angewandte.org

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Enzyme with surprising dual function
24.01.2018 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

nachricht Flexibility and arrangement - the interaction of ribonucleic acid and water
24.01.2018 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Optical Nanoscope Allows Imaging of Quantum Dots

Physicists have developed a technique based on optical microscopy that can be used to create images of atoms on the nanoscale. In particular, the new method allows the imaging of quantum dots in a semiconductor chip. Together with colleagues from the University of Bochum, scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute reported the findings in the journal Nature Photonics.

Microscopes allow us to see structures that are otherwise invisible to the human eye. However, conventional optical microscopes cannot be used to image...

Im Focus: Artificial agent designs quantum experiments

On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.

We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Physicists have learned to change the wavelength of Tamm plasmons

24.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

When the eyes move, the eardrums move, too

24.01.2018 | Health and Medicine

Deaf children learn words faster than hearing children

24.01.2018 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>