Bacterial Communication

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Bonnie Bassler discovered that bacteria “talk” to each other, using a chemical language that lets them coordinate defense and mount attacks. The find has stunning implications for medicine, industry — and our understanding of ourselves.

In 2002, bearing her microscope on a microbe that lives in the gut of fish, Bonnie Bassler isolated an elusive molecule called AI-2, and uncovered the mechanism behind mysterious behavior called quorum sensing — or bacterial communication. She showed that bacterial chatter is hardly exceptional or anomolous behavior, as was once thought — and in fact, most bacteria do it, and most do it all the time. (She calls the signaling molecules “bacterial Esperanto.”)

In February 2009, Bonnie Bassler gave a Ted Talk entitled:  How Bacteria “talk”


Bonnie Bassler teaches molecular biology at Princeton, where she continues her years-long study of V. harveyi, one such social microbe that is mainly responsible for glow-in-the-dark sushi.