Directed assembly of a bacterial quorum

Matthew D Servinsky, Jessica L Terrell, Chen-Yu Tsao, Hsuan-Chen Wu, David N Quan, Amin Zargar, Patrick C Allen, Christopher M Byrd, Christian J Sund, William E Bentley
2015 The ISME Journal  
Many reports have elucidated the mechanisms and consequences of bacterial quorum sensing (QS), a molecular communication system by which bacterial cells enumerate their cell density and organize collective behavior. In few cases, however, the numbers of bacteria exhibiting this collective behavior have been reported, either as a number concentration or a fraction of the whole. Not all cells in the population, for example, take on the collective phenotype. Thus, the specific attribution of the
more » ... stulated benefit can remain obscure. This is partly due to our inability to independently assemble a defined quorum, for natural and most artificial systems the quorum itself is a consequence of the biological context (niche and signaling mechanisms). Here, we describe the intentional assembly of quantized quorums. These are made possible by independently engineering the autoinducer signal transduction cascade of Escherichia coli (E. coli) and the sensitivity of detector cells so that upon encountering a particular autoinducer level, a discretized sub-population of cells emerges with the desired phenotype. In our case, the emergent cells all express an equivalent amount of marker protein, DsRed, as an indicator of a specific QS-mediated activity. The process is robust, as detector cells are engineered to target both large and small quorums. The process takes about 6 h, irrespective of quorum level. We demonstrate sensitive detection of autoinducer-2 (AI-2) as an application stemming from quantized quorums. We then demonstrate sub-population partitioning in that AI-2-secreting cells can 'call' groups neighboring cells that 'travel' and establish a QS-mediated phenotype upon reaching the new locale.
doi:10.1038/ismej.2015.89 pmid:26046256 pmcid:PMC4681864 fatcat:oti4wcjbvvay3jmkzr235kbkxq