November 6 - 9, 2011, Miami, Florida
The goal of this conference was to act as a conduit for the exchange and synthesis of new ideas among leading US and international scientists working on bacterial communication, to foster the next generation of scientists to work in this area, and to attract other researchers (particularly those in systems and synthetic biology, evolution and ecology, and chemistry) to this exciting field. It is anticipated that this conference will continue to stimulate and expand the cell-cell communication community, leading to outstanding discourse and productive new collaborations.
The conference focused on chemical and physical signaling mechanisms employed by bacteria and the communication networks that lead from these processes. Bacteria are the paradigm for unicellular life, yet they also exhibit elaborate coordinated behaviors that often defy unicellularity. Research over the past decade has revealed that a wide range of bacteria can communicate by diverse mechanisms. In most cases these microbial conversations occur through the exchange of diffusible signals, although there are also clear examples of contact-dependent communication. Many microbes use these signaling mechanisms to monitor and respond to population density, a process often described as quorum sensing. Interbacterial communication is not however restricted to quorum sensing mechanisms and there is mounting evidence that signaling can function in a range of different capacities. Communication between microorganisms has profound impacts on host interactions, as pathogens and commensals often regulate factors critical for interaction with their hosts via signal productions and perception. Target functions include, but are not restricted to horizontal gene transfer, virulence factors, adhesins, biofilm formation and the secretion of exoenzymes. Well established systems such as the cyclic thiolactone signals that regulate Staphylococcus aureus virulence and acyl homoserine lactones (AHLs) that control behavior in diverse proteobacteria are now joined by a number of more recently identified signaling systems. The range and diversity of these systems continues to grow rapidly.