Investigating the effect of antibiotics on quorum sensing with whole-cell biosensing systems

Anjali K. Struss, Patrizia Pasini, Deborah Flomenhoft, Harohalli Shashidhar, Sylvia Daunert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Quorum sensing (QS) allows bacteria to communicate with one another by means of QS signaling molecules and control certain behaviors in a group-based manner, including pathogenicity and biofilm formation. Bacterial gut microflora may play a role in inflammatory bowel disease pathogenesis, and antibiotics are one of the available therapeutic options for Crohn's disease. In the present study, we employed genetically engineered bioluminescent bacterial whole-cell sensing systems as a tool to evaluate the ability of antibiotics commonly employed in the treatment of chronic inflammatory conditions to interfere with QS. We investigated the effect of ciprofloxacin, metronidazole, and tinidazole on quorum sensing. Several concentrations of individual antibiotics were allowed to interact with two different types of bacterial sensing cells, in both the presence and absence of a fixed concentration of N-acylhomoserine lactone (AHL) QS molecules. The antibiotic effect was then determined by monitoring the biosensor's bioluminescence response. Ciprofloxacin, metronidazole, and tinidazole exhibited a dose-dependent augmentation in the response of both bacterial sensing systems, thus showing an AHL-like effect. Additionally, such an augmentation was observed, in both the presence and absence of AHL. The data obtained indicate that ciprofloxacin, metronidazole, and tinidazole may interfere with bacterial communication systems. The results suggest that these antibiotics, at the concentrations tested, may themselves act as bacterial signaling molecules. The beneficial effect of these antibiotics in the treatment of intestinal inflammation may be due, at least in part, to their effect on QS-related bacterial behavior in the gut.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3227-3236
Number of pages10
JournalAnalytical and bioanalytical chemistry
Issue number10
StatePublished - Apr 2012


  • Antibiotics
  • Bacterial whole-cell biosensing systems
  • Bioluminescence
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Quorum sensing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry


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