How Bacteria Talk

A professor at Princeton University and a MacArthur Foundation fellow, Bonnie Bassler, is credited with discovering the ability bacteria have to communicate across species using a small molecule called autoinducer-2 (AI-2).

This simple sugar, produced by scores of microbes including Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Vibrio cholera, and several species of bioluminescent marine bacteria, allows bugs to assess the density of the local population and to adjust their behavior accordingly: throwing off light, spewing out toxins, or forming slimy biofilms.

The idea that bacteria use chemical signals to convey information about population density – a phenomenon called quorum sensing – has been around for decades. In the early 1970s, microbiologist Woody Hastings noticed that V. fischeri, an organism that resides inside the light organs of squid and other marine life, glows only when its ranks swell.

But few scientists appreciated how widespread quorum sensing would turn out to be.

I instantly thought of human quorum and wondered if humans utilized similar stimuli. Frankly, it’s likely.

When we flock to fads, wear certain brands to bicycle or other brands at the hotel, are we cueing signals?

Is Web 2.0 merely a biofilm in the internet?

Gee whiz. It’s late. I should be asleep.

Quorum sensing? Multiple stuff going on here methinks.