The Sverdrup Visiting Scientist Lecture

Tiny Conspiracies: Cell to Cell Communication in Bacteria

Monday, April 7, 2014, at 7 p.m.

Hoversten Chapel, Foss Center

Bacteria communicate with one another by releasing small chemical molecules called autoinducers into the environment. These molecules travel from cell to cell and the bacteria have receptors on their surfaces that allow them to detect and respond to the build up of the molecules. This process of cell-to-cell communication in bacteria is called “quorum sensing” and it allows bacteria to synchronize behavior on a population-wide scale. Bacterial behaviors controlled by quorum sensing are usually ones that are unproductive when undertaken by an individual bacterium acting alone but become effective when undertaken in unison by the group. Current biomedical research is focused on the development of therapies aimed at interfering with quorum sensing. Such therapies could be used to control bacterial pathogenicity.

Manipulating Quorum Sensing to Control Bacterial Pathogenicity

Tuesday, April 8, 2014, at 11 a.m.

Hoversten Chapel, Foss Center

Quorum sensing controls virulence and biofilm formation. We developed small molecule quorum-sensing antagonists. Combined structural and genetic studies defined the mechanism underlying antagonism. Our most potent molecule protects animals from quorum-sensing-mediated killing by pathogenic bacteria and prevents biofilm formation in model microfluidics chambers that mimic medical devices. These results validate the notion that targeting quorum sensing has potential for antimicrobial drug development.

About the Speaker

Bonnie L. Bassler, PhD

Professor in molecular biology, Princeton University

Bonnie L. Bassler, PhD

Bonnie Bassler is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and she is the Chair and Squibb Professor of the Department of Molecular Biology at Princeton University. The research in her laboratory focuses on the molecular mechanisms that bacteria use for intercellular communication. This process is called quorum sensing. Bassler’s research is paving the way to the development of novel therapies for combating bacteria by disrupting quorum-sensing-mediated communication. She has received numerous awards including a MacArthur Fellowship, the Wiley Prize, the Lounsbery Award, and membership to the Royal Society and American Philosophical Society. Bassler serves on a variety of panels and committees including the National Science Board and President Barack Obama nominated her for that position. The Board oversees the NSF and prioritizes the nation’s research and educational priorities in science, math, and engineering.

This event is open to the public. For information or special requests, call 612-330-1104.