Information processing and signal integration in bacterial quorum sensing

Pankaj Mehta, Sidhartha Goyal, Tao Long, Bonnie Lynn Bassler, Ned S. Wingreen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

144 Scopus citations


Bacteria communicate using secreted chemical signaling molecules called autoinducers in a process known as quorum sensing. The quorum-sensing network of the marine bacterium Vibrio harveyi uses three autoinducers, each known to encode distinct ecological information. Yet how cells integrate and interpret the information contained within these three autoinducer signals remains a mystery. Here, we develop a new framework for analyzing signal integration on the basis of information theory and use it to analyze quorum sensing in V. harveyi. We quantify how much the cells can learn about individual autoinducers and explain the experimentally observed input-output relation of the V. harveyi quorum-sensing circuit. Our results suggest that the need to limit interference between input signals places strong constraints on the architecture of bacterial signal-integration networks, and that bacteria probably have evolved active strategies for minimizing this interference. Here, we analyze two such strategies: manipulation of autoinducer production and feedback on receptor number ratios.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number325
JournalMolecular Systems Biology
StatePublished - Jan 20 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Information Systems
  • Applied Mathematics
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


  • Biophysics
  • Information theory
  • Quorum sensing
  • Signal integration
  • Signal transduction


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