Bacterial quorum sensing in complex and dynamically changing environments.
Quorum sensing is a process of bacterial cell-to-cell chemical communication that relies on the production, detection and response to extracellular signalling molecules called autoinducers. Quorum sensing allows groups of bacteria to synchronously alter behaviour in response to changes in the population density and species composition of the vicinal community. Quorum-sensing-mediated communication is now understood to be the norm in the bacterial world. Elegant research has defined quorum-sensing components and their interactions, for the most part, under ideal and highly controlled conditions. Indeed, these seminal studies laid the foundations for the field. In this Review, we highlight new findings concerning how bacteria deploy quorum sensing in realistic scenarios that mimic nature. We focus on how quorums are detected and how quorum sensing controls group behaviours in complex and dynamically changing environments such as multi-species bacterial communities, in the presence of flow, in 3D non-uniform biofilms and in hosts during infection.