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The fitness burden imposed by synthesising quorum sensing signals

Ruparell, Avika; Dubern, Jean-Fr�d�ric; Ortori, Catharine A.; Harrison, F.; Halliday, N.M.; Emtage, A.; Ashawesh, M.M.; Laughton, Charles A.; Diggle, Stephen P.; Williams, P.; Barrett, David A.; Hardie, Kim R.

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Avika Ruparell

Catharine A. Ortori

F. Harrison

N.M. Halliday

A. Emtage

M.M. Ashawesh

Professor of Computational Pharmaceutical Science

Stephen P. Diggle

Professor of Molecular Microbiology

David A. Barrett

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Professor of Bacterial Pathogenesis


It is now well established that bacterial populations utilize cell-to-cell signaling (quorum-sensing, QS) to control the production of public goods and other co-operative behaviours. Evolutionary theory predicts that both the cost of signal production and the response to signals should incur fitness costs for producing cells. Although costs imposed by the downstream consequences of QS have been shown, the cost of QS signal molecule (QSSM) production and its impact on fitness has not been examined. We measured the fitness cost to cells of synthesising QSSMs by quantifying metabolite levels in the presence of QSSM synthases. We found that: (i) bacteria making certain QSSMs have a growth defect that exerts an evolutionary cost, (ii) production of QSSMs negatively correlates with intracellular concentrations of QSSM precursors, (iii) the production of heterologous QSSMs negatively impacts the production of a native QSSM that shares common substrates, and (iv) supplementation with exogenously added metabolites partially rescued growth defects imposed by QSSM synthesis. These data identify the sources of the fitness costs incurred by QSSM producer cells, and indicate that there may be metabolic trade-offs associated with QS signaling that could exert selection on how signaling evolves.


Ruparell, A., Dubern, J.-F., Ortori, C. A., Harrison, F., Halliday, N., Emtage, A., …Hardie, K. R. (2016). The fitness burden imposed by synthesising quorum sensing signals. Scientific Reports, 6, Article 33101.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 12, 2016
Online Publication Date Sep 12, 2016
Publication Date Sep 12, 2016
Deposit Date Sep 23, 2016
Publicly Available Date Sep 23, 2016
Journal Scientific Reports
Electronic ISSN 2045-2322
Publisher Nature Publishing Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 6
Article Number 33101
Public URL
Publisher URL


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