Bioassays of Quorum Sensing Compounds Using Agrobacterium tumefaciens and Chromobacterium violaceum

  • Weihua Chu
  • Dhiraj A. Vattem
  • Vatsala Maitin
  • Mary B. Barnes
  • Robert J. C. McLean
Part of the Methods in Molecular Biology book series (MIMB, volume 692)


In most bacteria, a global level of regulation exists involving intercellular communication via the production and response to cell density-dependent signal molecules. This cell density-dependent regulation has been termed quorum sensing (QS). QS is a global regulator, which has been associated with a number of important features in bacteria including virulence regulation and biofilm formation. Consequently, there is considerable interest in understanding, detecting, and inhibiting QS. Acyl homoserine lactones (acyl HSLs) are used as extracellular QS signals by a variety of Gram-negative bacteria. Chromobacterium violaceum, a Gram-negative bacterium commonly found in soil and water, produces the characteristic purple pigment violacein, the production of which is regulated by acyl HSL-mediated QS. Based on this readily observed pigmentation phenotype, C. violaceum strains can be used to detect various aspects of acyl HSL-mediated QS activity. In another commonly used bioassay organism, Agrobacterium tumefaciens, QS can be detected by the use of a reporter gene such as lacZ. Here, we describe several commonly used approaches incorporating C. violaceum and A. tumefaciens that can be used to detect acyl HSLs and QS inhibition.

Key words

Quorum sensing N-acyl homoserine lactone Violacein Chromobacterium violaceum Agrobacerium tumefaciens Violacein 



We are grateful to Clay Fuqua and Steve Winans for providing these strains and introducing us to quorum signaling. Work in RJCM’s laboratory is supported by a grant from the Norman Hackerman Advanced Research Program (003615-0037-2007).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Weihua Chu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Dhiraj A. Vattem
    • 3
  • Vatsala Maitin
    • 4
  • Mary B. Barnes
    • 5
  • Robert J. C. McLean
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyTexas State University-San MarcosSan MarcosUSA
  2. 2.Department of Microbiology, School of Life Science and TechnologyChina Pharmaceutical UniversityNanjingP. R. China
  3. 3.Molecular and Cellular Nutrition Program, Department of Family and Consumer ScienceTexas State University-San MarcosSan MarcosUSA
  4. 4.Department of Family and Consumer Science, Molecular and Cellular Nutrition ProgramTexas State University-San MarcosSan MarcosUSA
  5. 5.Tulane National Primate Research CenterCovingtonUSA

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