Self-sensing in Bacillus subtilis quorum-sensing systems

Tasneem Bareia, Shaul Pollak, Avigdor Eldar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bacterial cell-cell signalling, or quorum sensing, is characterized by the secretion and groupwide detection of small diffusible signal molecules called autoinducers. This mechanism allows cells to coordinate their behaviour in a density-dependent manner. A quorum-sensing cell may directly respond to the autoinducers it produces in a cell-autonomous and quorum-independent manner, but the strength of this self-sensing effect and its impact on bacterial physiology are unclear. Here, we explore the existence and impact of self-sensing in the Bacillus subtilis ComQXP and Rap-Phr quorum-sensing systems. By comparing the quorum-sensing response of autoinducer-secreting and non-secreting cells in co-culture, we find that secreting cells consistently show a stronger response than non-secreting cells. Combining genetic and quantitative analyses, we demonstrate this effect to be a direct result of self-sensing and rule out an indirect regulatory effect of the autoinducer production genes on response sensitivity. In addition, self-sensing in the ComQXP system affects persistence to antibiotic treatment. Together, these findings indicate the existence of self-sensing in the two most common designs of quorum-sensing systems of Gram-positive bacteria.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-89
Number of pages7
JournalNature Microbiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2018


FundersFunder number
Horizon 2020 Framework Programme281301, 724805
European Research Council


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