Optimal tuning of bacterial sensing potential.
Through production and sensing of small signal molecules, quorum sensing (QS) enables bacteria to detect changes in their density and regulate their functions accordingly. QS systems are tremendously diverse in terms of their specific sensory components, the biochemical and transport properties of signaling molecules, their target functions and the context in which QS-mediated functions are activated. Cutting across this diversity, however, the central architecture of QS systems is universal; it comprises signal synthesis, secretion, degradation and detection. We are thus able to derive a general metric for QS 'sensing potential' based on this 'core' module. The sensing potential quantifies the ability of a single bacterium to sense the dimensions of its microenvironment. This simple metric captures the dominant activation properties of diverse QS systems, giving a concise description of the sensing characteristics. As such, it provides a convenient quantitative framework to study the phenotypic effects of QS characteristics. As an example, we show how QS characteristics uniquely determine the scenarios in which regulation of a typical QS-controlled function, such as exoenzyme secretion, becomes advantageous.
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