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Samantha Holman Intro to Bio Term Paper Quorum Sensing of Vibrio fischeri in the Hawaiian Bobsled Squid

Bacteria have proven themselves to be a dangerous force in the health of living organisms. However, they are also absolutely vital in digestion, the immune system, and so on, in all forms of life. In both ventures, bacteria have a chemical language they use to communicate with each other about what their particular mission is. Quorum Sensing, the theory of cellular communication among bacteria, was developed by Bonnie Bassler and her lab. Their research suggests that there are inra-species specific molecules and receptors that, when enough of the bacterial species are present, latch together and give information to the cell about what function to carry out. Considering the vast variety of bacteria, a specific species is not usually isolated. To communicate with differing species bacteria also have an inter-species form of communication. It follows the same molecule and receptor idea but with a generic five carbon molecule and receptor to apply to many species of bacteria. An interesting example of Quorum Sensing is the bacteria Vibrio fischeri in the Hawaiian Bobsled Squid. (Bassler, Cell-to-Cell Communication in Bacteria)

The Hawaiian Bobsled Squid has lobes on the underside of its body that are home to the Vibrio fischeri bacteria. They are light-producing bacteria and can be pathogenic to other invertibres. However, the squid and bacteria have developed a symbiotic relationship that allows the nocturnal squid to hunt in the dark and a home to the Vibrio fischeri. These squid live in the shallow waters of Hawaiian coasts. During the day they bury themselves in the sand; after the

sun goes down and they come out to hunt and the relationship comes alive. (Maiden, Vibrio fischeri)

The lobes where the bacteria are located have an adapted shutter to control the luminescence intensity of the Vibrio fischeri. This depends on the brightness of the moon and stars in the night sky detected by a censor on the squids back. This system provides an antipredation apparatus for the Hawaiian Bobsled squid. The censor on the squids back detecting the light from the sky tells the shutter on the lobes how much light to let through so that the light from the sky and the light from the Vibrio fischeri is synonymous. Therefore, the squid casts no shadow to scare away its prey.

The squid cannot be host to the dying bacteria so a pump attached to the circadian rhythm pumps out 95% of the bacteria when the squid is sleeping during the day. The population of the Vibrio fischeri is thinned out so they are not communicating to produce any light. While the squid sleeps, the diluted bacteria multiply in the lobes again to produce light for the Hawaiian Bobsled Squid when he wakes up to hunt. The symbiosis cycle continues.

Quorum Sensing, the communication of bacteria with specific molecules and receptors, suggests that bacteria have a private language within their species and generic language to assimilate information about surrounding species. With this language they can decide whether or not to carry out their group behavior gene depending on what kind of company they are in. A great example of Quorum Sensing is the communication of light production from Vibrio fischeri

in the Hawaiian Bobsled Squid. The two have created a balanced symbiotic relationship that involves Quorum Sensing.


Bassler, Bonnie. Cell-to-Cell Communication in Bacteria. HHMI. Howard Hughes Medical Institution, November 22, 2013. Web. November 29, 2013.

Maiden, Stephanie. Vibrio fischeri. Web. November 29, 2013.