Updated: Jul 20, 2019
Bacteria talk like you and I do but we can’t hear them! They use something called Quorum Sensing (QS) to talk to each other. This tells us that they like to be in communities rather than alone (much like us) and allows them to act as a group rather than as an individual cell. QS plays a bacteria become nasty, during the formation of biofilms, during their acts of symbiosis others (playing well with others), when they create a denser community and it’s also involved in what genes the bacteria turn on or off (Hughes & Sperandio, 2008). QS is performed through the release of chemical signals by bacteria and these chemical signals are thought to direct the structure, behaviour and community characteristics of your gut bacteria (Kendall & Sperandio, 2016).
Why is this important?
As you already know, what you eat and do affects how your gut bacteria communicate. Things that can affect this communication include pH of your gut, temperature, the amount of bile acids and starvation (just to name a few) which can affect your health. Studies have proposed that your own hormones act as cues for your gut microbiota which may change gene expression and therefore are believed to have interkingdom (between humans and microorganisms) signaling capabilities (Kendall & Sperandio, 2016)! Research has also shown now that the bacteria in your gut and your own gut cells may talk to each other using some form of QS. This idea of some type of cross talking between your gut cells and your microbiota is very exciting as it opens another door to your health and it may help us to resolve the gut puzzle one day!
Hughes, D. T., & Sperandio, V. (2008). Inter-kingdom signalling: communication between bacteria and their hosts. Nature reviews. Microbiology, 6(2), 111-120. doi:10.1038/nrmicro1836
Kendall, M. M., & Sperandio, V. (2016). What a Dinner Party! Mechanisms and Functions of Interkingdom Signaling in Host-Pathogen Associations. mBio, 7(2), e01748-01715. doi:10.1128/mBio.01748-15