Towards controlling bacterial social behaviours in host-like habitats

Year of award: 2016


  • Dr Giorgio Volpe

    University College London

Project summary

The regulation of social behaviour in bacteria is key to several phenomena including biofilm formation and the virulence of pathogens. Quorum sensing is the chemical communication process bacteria use to coordinate changes in their collective behaviour in response to population density. A current challenge in the field is to understand how quorum sensing works in scenarios that mimic real host environments. I have previously demonstrated that patchiness makes an active matter system – a system of self-propelled elements, such as motile bacteria – switch between gathering and dispersal of individuals.

Using a novel combination of methods from microfabrication, advanced microscopy and molecular biology, the aim of this proof-of-principle project is to unambiguously demonstrate that bacterial quorum sensing can be triggered by similar dynamics of gathering and dispersal induced by spatial features in the environment.

The validation of such a hypothesis will inform a long-term research programme on the effects of the environment on different quorum-sensing related phenomena such asbiofilm formation and development, antimicrobial resistance, host pathogen interactions and the expression of virulence.