Researchers in the University’s School of Molecular Medical Sciences have shown for the first time that the effectiveness of the bacteria’s communication method, a process called ‘quorum sensing’, directly depends on the density of the bacterial population. This work will help inform wider research into how to stop bacteria talking to each other with the aim of switching off their toxin production.
As some pathogenic organisms are increasingly resistant to traditional antibiotics, medical researchers around the world, including scientists at The University of Nottingham, are trying to find other ways of fighting infection. This new work involves using ‘quorum quenching’ compounds which interfere with bacterial signalling and disrupt their social lives.
Breaking up the party
Quorum sensing (QS) is the process by which bacteria communicate and co-operate using signal molecules which control, among other things, the production of toxins. QS is therefore an important factor in a number of bacterial species that cause serious infection in humans including Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a leading cause of death among cystic fibrosis sufferers, and MRSA which is a huge clinical problem in hospitals.
Leading the research at Nottingham, Dr Stephen Diggle said: “The fundamental assumption used to explain QS, is that the production of QS-controlled factors is not beneficial until a sufficient density of cells (a quorum) is present, and that the purpose of QS is to stimulate social behaviours only when high enough bacterial population densities are reached. For a pathogen this makes sense. Why produce toxins when there are not many cells around? Why not wait until a large number are present and coordinate production of toxin on mass which helps to overwhelm a host? This density assumption, upon which the entire QS field is based, has never been experimentally tested until now.”
Sharing the science
This ground-breaking research has just been published in the leading international journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
It shows for the first time that cell density is an important factor in regulating QS in the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Using a combination of special growth media and molecular techniques, the work has shown that QS signalling occurs in low populations of cells but that there is no benefit to the bacteria of doing so. QS is therefore most useful to the bacteria at high cell densities.
A challenge for researchers in the future is to study this in more natural environments such as infections. Bacteria such as P. aeruginosa use QS to control toxin production and this new research helps to explain how certain infections can suddenly turn life threatening due to massive toxin release. This suggests that carefully controlling bacterial population density within infections could be helpful in avoiding toxin-related damage.
This research is a key project within the University’s new appeal, Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, which is delivering the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. Find out more about our research and how you can support us at http://tiny.cc/UoNImpact
For up to the minute media alerts, follow us on Twitter
Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham, described by The Sunday Times University Guide 2011 as ‘the embodiment of the modern international university’, has 40,000 students at award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. It is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and the QS World University Rankings. It was named ‘the world’s greenest university’ in the UI GreenMetric World University Ranking 2011.
More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise. The University’s vision is to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health. The University won a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in 2011, for its research into global food security.
Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest ever fund-raising campaign, will deliver the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future.
Emma Rayner | EurekAlert!
NIST scientists discover how to switch liver cancer cell growth from 2-D to 3-D structures
17.11.2017 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
High speed video recording precisely measures blood cell velocity
15.11.2017 | ITMO University
The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.
Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...
Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.
That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...
Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.
During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....
The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.
Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...
Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...
15.11.2017 | Event News
15.11.2017 | Event News
30.10.2017 | Event News
17.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
17.11.2017 | Health and Medicine
17.11.2017 | Studies and Analyses