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1.  Locality versus globality in bacterial signalling: can local communication stabilize bacterial communities? 
Biology Direct  2010;5:30.
Microbial consortia are a major form of life; however their stability conditions are poorly understood and are often explained in terms of species-specific defence mechanisms (secretion of extracellular matrix, antimicrobial compounds, siderophores, etc.). Here we propose a hypothesis that the primarily local nature of intercellular signalling can be a general mechanism underlying the stability of many forms of microbial communities.
Presentation of the hypothesis
We propose that a large microbial community can be pictured as a theatre of spontaneously emerging, partially overlapping, locally recruited microcommunities whose members interact primarily among themselves, via secreted (signalling) molecules or cell-cell contacts. We hypothesize that stability in an open environment relies on a predominantly local steady state of intercellular communication which ensures that i) deleterious mutants or strains can be excluded by a localized collapse, while ii) microcommunities harbouring useful traits can persist and/or spread even in the absence of specific protection mechanisms.
Testing the hypothesis
Some elements of this model can be tested experimentally by analyzing the behaviour of synthetic consortia composed of strains having well-defined communication systems and devoid of specific defence mechanisms. Supporting evidence can be obtained by in silico simulations.
Implications of the hypothesis
The hypothesis provides a framework for a systematic comparison of bacterial community behavior in open and closed environments. The model predicts that local signalling may enable multispecies communities to colonize open, structured environments. On the other hand, a confined niche or a host may be more likely to be colonized by a bacterial mono-species community, and local communication here provides a control against spontaneously arising cheaters, provided that survival depends on cooperation.
This article was reviewed by G. Jékely, L. Aravind and E. Szathmáry (nominated by F. Eisenhaber)
PMCID: PMC2873267  PMID: 20423483
2.  A simple model for the early events of quorum sensing in Pseudomonas aeruginosa: modeling bacterial swarming as the movement of an "activation zone" 
Biology Direct  2009;4:6.
Quorum sensing (QS) is a form of gene regulation based on cell-density that depends on inter-cellular communication. While there are a variety of models for bacterial colony morphology, there is little work linking QS genes to movement in an open system.
The onset of swarming in environmental P. aeruginosa PUPa3 was described with a simplified computational model in which cells in random motion communicate via a diffusible signal (representing N-acyl homoserine lactones, AHL) as well as diffusible, secreted factors (enzymes, biosurfactans, i.e. "public goods") that regulate the intensity of movement and metabolism in a threshold-dependent manner. As a result, an "activation zone" emerges in which nutrients and other public goods are present in sufficient quantities, and swarming is the spontaneous displacement of this high cell-density zone towards nutrients and/or exogenous signals. The model correctly predicts the behaviour of genomic knockout mutants in which the QS genes responsible either for the synthesis (lasI, rhlI) or the sensing (lasR, rhlR) of AHL signals were inactivated. For wild type cells the model predicts sustained colony growth that can however be collapsed by the overconsumption of nutrients.
While in more complex models include self-orienting abilities that allow cells to follow concentration gradients of nutrients and chemotactic agents, in this model, displacement towards nutrients or environmental signals is an emergent property of the community that results from the action of a few, well-defined QS genes and their products. Still the model qualitatively describes the salient properties of QS bacteria, i.e. the density-dependent onset of swarming as well as the response to exogenous signals or cues.
This paper was reviewed by Gáspár Jékely, L. Aravind, Eugene V. Koonin and Artem Novozhilov (nominated by Eugene V. Koonin).
PMCID: PMC2660287  PMID: 19216743
3.  The intracellular region of Notch ligands: does the tail make the difference? 
Biology Direct  2007;2:19.
The cytoplasmic tail of Notch ligands drives endocytosis, mediates association with proteins implicated in the organization of cell-cell junctions and, through regulated intra-membrane proteolysis, is released from the membrane as a signaling fragment. We survey these findings and discuss the role of Notch ligands intracellular region in bidirectional signaling and possibly in signal modulation in mammals.
This article was reviewed by Frank Eisenhaber, L Aravind, and Eugene V. Koonin.
PMCID: PMC1965462  PMID: 17623096

Results 1-3 (3)