Submitted to: Journal of Food Protection
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: December 21, 2003
Publication Date: May 1, 2003
Citation: Smith, J.L., Fratamico, P.M., Novak, J.S. 2003. Quorum sensing: a primer for food microbiologists. Journal Of Food Protection. 67(5):1053-1070. Technical Abstract: Quorum sensing is a signaling mechanism through which bacteria modulate a number of cellular functions (genes) including sporulation, biofilm formation, bacteriocin production, and virulence responses. Quorum sensing is a mechanism of cell-to-cell communication and is mediated by extracellular chemical signals generated by bacteria when specific cell densities are reached. When the concentration of the signal (and population) is sufficiently high, a target gene(s)is either activated or repressed. Quorum sensing increases the ability of the bacteria to have access to nutrients or to more favorable environmental niches, and it enhances bacterial defenses against eukaryotic hosts, competing bacteria, and environmental stresses. The physiological and clinical aspects of quorum sensing have received considerable attention and have been studied at the molecular level. Little is known, however, on whether quorum sensing may play a role in food spoilage or on the growth and/or toxin production of pathogens present in food. A number of compounds have been isolated or synthesized that antagonize quorum sensors, and application of these antagonists may potentially be useful in inhibiting the growth or virulence mechanisms of bacteria in different environments including food. It is important that food microbiologists have an awareness and an understanding of the mechanisms involved in bacterial quorum sensing to be able to develop strategies to control the growth of undesirable bacteria in foods.