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Microbial Chatter

Microbial Chatter
Reported by
Marcia Stone

Posted October 15, 2009


Bonnie Bassler spends her professional life eavesdropping on bacteria. "We scientists were all wrong thinking that bacteria live asocial, reclusive lives," she says. "There isn't any way they could accomplish the terrible and the wonderful things they do on earth acting as individuals." In fact, bacteria are gregarious by nature, preferring to crowd together in complex, multi-species communities, whether on abiotic surfaces or living tissue. They are superbly well adapted to lives of infinite uncertainty and intense competition. The ability to communicate and cooperate goes a long way toward ensuring their survival.

Use the tabs above to find a meeting report and multimedia from this event.

Web Sites

American Society for Microbiology
A wealth of things bacterial.

The Bassler Lab
Contains background on Bassler's Laboratory's research.

Center for Biofilm Engineering
The Center, at Montana State University, focuses on the unique biology of bacterial biofilms.

Journal Articles

Bassler, B. L. & R. Losick. 2006. Bacterially speaking. Cell 125: 237-246.

Bassler, B. L. 2002. Small talk: cell-to-cell communication in bacteria. Cell 109: 421-424.

Bassler, B. L., M. Wright, R. E. Showalter & M. R. Silverman. 1993. Intercellular signalling in Vibrio harveyi: sequence and function of genes regulating expression of luminescence. Mol. Microbiol. 9: 773-786.

Bassler, B. L., M. Wright & M. R. Silverman. 1994. Sequence and function of LuxO, a negative regulator of luminescence in Vibrio harveyi. Mol. Microbiol. 12: 403-412.

Camilli, A. & B. L. Bassler. 2006. Bacterial small-molecule signaling pathways. Science 311: 1113-1116.

Chen, X., S. Schauder, N. Potier, et al. 2002. Structural identification of a bacterial quorum-sensing signal containing boron. Nature 415: 545-549.

Engebrecht, J. & M. Silverman. 1984. Identification of genes and gene products necessary for bacterial bioluminescence. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 81: 4154-4158. FULL TEXT

Engebrecht, J. & M. Silverman. 1987. Nucleotide sequence of the regulatory locus controlling expression of bacterial genes for bioluminescence. Nucleic Acids Res. 15: 10455-10467. (PDF, 1.5 MB) FULL TEXT

Federle, M. J. & B. L. Bassler. 2003. Interspecies communication in bacteria. J. Clin. Invest. 112: 1291-1299. FULL TEXT

Henke, J. M. & B. L. Bassler. 2004. Bacterial social engagements. Trends Cell Biol. 14: 648-656.

Lenz, D. H., K. C. Mok, B. N. Lilley, et al. 2004. The small RNA chaperone Hfq and multiple small RNAs control quorum sensing in Vibrio harveyi and Vibrio cholerae. Cell 118: 69-82.

Miller, S. T., K. B. Xavier, S. R. Campangna, et al. 2004. Salmonella typhimurium recognizes a chemically distinct form of the bacterial quorum-sensing signal AI-2. Mol. Cell 15: 677-687.

Showalter, R. E., M. O. Martin & M. R. Silverman. 1990. Cloning and nucleotide sequence of luxR, a regulatory gene controlling bioluminescence in Vibrio harveyi. J. Bacteriol. 172: 2946-2954. (PDF, 1.75 MB) FULL TEXT

Taga, M. E. & B. L. Bassler. 2003. Chemical communication among bacteria. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 100 (suppl. 2): 14549-14554. FULL TEXT

Waters, C. M. & B. L. Bassler. 2005. Quorum sensing: cell-to-cell communication in bacteria. Annu. Rev. Cell Dev. Biol. 21: 319-346.

Xavier, K. B. & B. L. Bassler. 2005. Regulation of uptake and processing of the quorum-sensing autoinducer AI-2 in Escherichia coli. J. Bacteriol. 187: 238-248. FULL TEXT

Xavier, K.B. & B. L. Bassler. 2005. Interference with AI-2-mediated bacterial cell-cell communication. Nature 437: 750-753.


Bonnie L. Bassler, PhD

Princeton University
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
email | web site | publications

Bonnie Bassler, who was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2006, is a Howard Hughes Medical Investigator and professor of molecular biology at Princeton University. She received a BS in biochemistry from the University of California at Davis and a PhD in biochemistry from Johns Hopkins University. Bassler performed her postdoctoral work in genetics at the Agouron Institute, and joined the Princeton faculty in 1994 where she is the Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Molecular Biology. The research in her laboratory focuses on the molecular mechanisms bacteria use for intercellular communication in a process called quorum sensing.

Bassler was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 2002. She was elected to the American Academy of Microbiology in 2002 and made a fellow of AAAS in 2004. In 2003 Bassler received the Theobald Smith Society Waksman Award and is the recipient of the 2006 ASM Eli Lilly Investigator Award.

Bassler is an editor for Molecular Microbiology and Annual Reviews of Genetics, and an associate editor for the Journal of Bacteriology. She serves on grant, fellowship, and award review panels for the NSF, ASM, AAM, Keck Foundation, and the Burroughs Wellcome Trust.

Marcia Stone

Marcia Stone, a science writer based in New York City and longtime member of the Academy's Microbiology Section, discovered bacterial genetics at the Harvard Medical School in the late 1980s and has been an avid fan of prokaryotes ever since. More of her work can be found at