Quorum sensing

Just a quick note on early Sunday morning. 


I’ve been reading up a bit on the topic of quorum sensing, which turned out to be a very interesting phenomenon. I’m not qualified to get into the specifics but it’s basically a cell to cell communications method used by bacteria. The mechanism is based on signal molecules and receptors that activate or deactivate certain sets of genes depending on signal strength. The strength of the signal would be determined by the density of the signal molecules within a given area. It means that bacteria (of all kinds I think) have built-in coordination mechanism for group gene expression.  This is news to me. I always thought bacterial behavior was more or less solitary with some mathematical mechanism behind emergence of bacterial colonies, rather than any specific signal mechanism that works to coordinate their behavior as a group. I guess the deeply ingrained eukaryotes/prokaryotes and multicellular vs. unicellular organisms chart from the middle-high school days left its mark on me. The Bassler lab at Princeton University’s department of molecular biology seem to be the leader in the field of quorum sensor studies, something I should definitely check out later. Here’s a TED talk by the lab’s very own Bonnie Bassler on bacterial communication.

This reminds me of a few iGEM project outlines I read on using BioBrick parts to form some sort of macroscopic structure using bacterial components. They all more or less failed as far as I know, but maybe something like that will be possible if we can build a BioBrick based mechanism for controlling quorum sensing mechanism of the E.Coli chassis… Or maybe there’s one in the registry already? I should remember to check it out. Maybe diybio-nyc can build a cellular automata system based on quorum sensing as a demonstration project later on. The prospect of studying complexity mechanics behind the quorum sensing and coordinated bacterial behavior is intriguing to me as well.

I’m also thinking of proposing a simple artificial cell project to the group. From what I’ve been reading the first steps towards building an artificial cell isn’t that complicated as long as we keep the goals modest. For now the goal would be to have DNA replicate and produce proteins within an artificial vesicle.


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