Inspired by Nature: Silencing Bacteria
Published:09 Nov.2022    Source:Johannes Gutenberg Universitaet Mainz

For bacterial life in communities, it is important that the individual cells "talk" to each other. Communication proceeds nonverbally with the help of signaling molecules that are continuously emitted to the environment, whereby different "languages" and "dialects" can occur depending on the specific bacterium. As bacterial concentration increases so does the concentration of the signaling molecules. This allows bacteria to detect the number of other bacteria in their environment and activate processes that enable the formation of biofilms.

To prevent colonization with bacterial biofilms, various hosts defend themselves with a strategy that " silences" the bacteria by enzymatically modifying the signaling molecules. This is done, for example, with the help of haloperoxidases, a group of enzymes that halogenate signaling molecules through a complex reaction chain.
These modified signaling molecules have a similar structure as the original molecules and can still bind to receptors. However, they can no longer activate the process chains that lead to biofilm formation. This interference in bacterial gene regulation is also of pharmacological interest, because pathogenic bacteria can evade the attack of the immune defense or the effect of antibiotics by forming biofilms.