Posts Tagged ‘quorum sensing’

Quorum sensing in bacteria

December 5, 2012

For Understanding Genomes class what I found most intriguing was the biological concept of quorum sensing, which is the ability of bacteria to communicate and coordinate behavior via signaling molecules.

For example, opportunistic bacteria can grow within a host without harming it, until they reach a certain concentration. When their numbers are sufficient to overcome the host’s immune system, they change their behavior and cause disease.


Bacteria which use quorum sensing produce and secrete signaling compounds called autoinducers. With high concentrations of bacteria, the concentration of the inducer passes a threshold, so more inducer is synthesized.

Quorum sensing

To illustrate this process, I used processing to create a sketch that displays a number of bacteria floating in a stable environment; and then to capture the mechanics of producing and secreting signaling autoinducers, I used the function of an ellipse ring to emanate from the bacteria to cause each one to gravitate to one another; and then with any key press the bacteria change to another color, illustarting the function of the bacteria changing their behavior so it can survive in the host and cause disease.

Screen shot 2012-12-05 at 9.16.37 AM

In one sketch I used the aerial view the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill where naturally-occurring bacteria that exist in the Gulf of Mexico consumed and removed at least 200,000 tons of oil and natural gas that spewed into the deep Gulf. [SKETCH]


While in another sketch I used the background from the bacteria I had to research called Staphylococcus aureus, which is a bacterium that is often found in the human respiratory tract and on the skin and is a common cause of skin infection and food poisoning. [SKETCH]


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