A Bacterial Tower of Babel: Quorum-Sensing Signaling Diversity and Its Evolution

Nitzan Aframian, Avigdor Eldar

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Quorum sensing is a process in which bacteria secrete and sense a diffusible molecule, thereby enabling bacterial groups to coordinate their behavior in a density-dependent manner. Quorum sensing has evolved multiple times independently, utilizing different molecular pathways and signaling molecules. A common theme among many quorum-sensing families is their wide range of signaling diversity-different variants within a family code for different signal molecules with a cognate receptor specific to each variant. This pattern of vast allelic polymorphism raises several questions-How do different signaling variants interact with one another? How is this diversity maintained? And how did it come to exist in the first place? Here we argue that social interactions between signaling variants can explain the emergence and persistence of signaling diversity throughout evolution. Finally, we extend the discussion to include cases where multiple diverse systems work in concert in a single bacterium.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)587-606
Number of pages20
JournalAnnual Review of Microbiology
StatePublished - 8 Sep 2020


  • Quorum sensing
  • cell-cell communication
  • diversification
  • evolution
  • pherotypes
  • social evolution


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