Nanomaterials and Quorum Sensing

Quorum sensing (QS) is a cell-to-cell communication system that allows prokaryotic cells to detect their local population density and coordinate synchronized gene expression. QS regulates a wide variety of coordinated cell activity, including biofilm formation, virulence production, bioluminescence, antibiotic synthesis, filamentation, and conjugation. Bacteria are able to determine local cell numbers by producing and detecting small signaling molecules known as autoinducers.

We hypothesize that engineered nanoparticles may intercept and sequester autoinducer molecules and disrupt the synchronized gene expression.  In order to examine this hypothesis experiments are being performed using Chromobacterium violaceum, and in vitro, using isolated cell components. Specifically, the capacity of ENPs to adsorb signaling molecules from C. violaceum, as well as those from other species, is examined. In addition to adsorption properties, biological assays will be used to determine if ENPs can be engineered to interfere with or permit natural QS behavior.

Data from this work may be used as a guide for the future design of human health focused biotechnology and regulation of ENPs for reduced environmental impacts.