Until recently, bacteria were considered to live rather asocial, reclusive lives. New research shows that, in fact, bacteria have elaborate chemical signaling systems that enable them to communicate within and between species. One signal, termed AI-2, appears to be universal and facilitates interspecies communication. Many processes, including virulence factor production, biofilm formation, and motility, are controlled by AI-2. Strategies that interfere with communication in bacteria are being explored in the biotechnology industry with the aim of developing novel antimicrobials. AI-2 is a particularly attractive candidate for such studies because of its widespread use in the microbial kingdom.
Michael J. Federle, Bonnie L. Bassler