A single bacterium isn’t capable of doing much—it can’t overcome the host’s immune response or make enough of an impact to create changes within the host. But it’s a whole different story when many bacteria exist in the same environment, as together they have the ability to generate virulence factors, unleashing the full force of their weapons, if you will, and as a result, overpowering the host’s immune response. But what leads to these coordinated activities? What must happen in order for an individual bacterium to sense others of their kind, and to respond accordingly? The term for it is quorum sensing, and it’s the focus of Dr. E. Peter Greenberg’s research in the Greenberg Lab at the University of Washington. For him, understanding the fundamentals behind quorum sensing, such as the nature of the signal generators involved, how the receptors work, what genes these receptors control in bacteria, and how to interpret the sociobiological aspects of quorum sensing is critical to further this area of research and use it for beneficial and therapeutic ends. Dr. Greenberg discusses a number of interesting topics, including nutrient and temperature cues for bacteria, antibiotic resistance, and the focus of his most recent research. Interested in learning more?
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