Quorum Sensing Controls Adaptive Immunity through the Regulation of Multiple CRISPR-Cas Systems

Adrian G. Patterson, Simon A. Jackson, Corinda Taylor, Gary B. Evans, George P.C. Salmond, Rita Przybilski, Raymond H.J. Staals, Peter C. Fineran*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

95 Citations (Scopus)


Bacteria commonly exist in high cell density populations, making them prone to viral predation and horizontal gene transfer (HGT) through transformation and conjugation. To combat these invaders, bacteria possess an arsenal of defenses, such as CRISPR-Cas adaptive immunity. Many bacterial populations coordinate their behavior as cell density increases, using quorum sensing (QS) signaling. In this study, we demonstrate that QS regulation results in increased expression of the type I-E, I-F, and III-A CRISPR-Cas systems in Serratia cells in high-density populations. Strains unable to communicate via QS were less effective at defending against invaders targeted by any of the three CRISPR-Cas systems. Additionally, the acquisition of immunity by the type I-E and I-F systems was impaired in the absence of QS signaling. We propose that bacteria can use chemical communication to modulate the balance between community-level defense requirements in high cell density populations and host fitness costs of basal CRISPR-Cas activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1102-1108
Number of pages7
JournalMolecular Cell
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • bacterial communication
  • CRISPR-Cas
  • horizontal gene transfer
  • phage resistance
  • quorum sensing
  • regulation


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