Extracellular signal regulation of cell differentiation in biofilms

Liraz Chai*, Hera Vlamakis, Roberto Kolter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Bacteria often live in the form of surface-associated communities of cells termed biofilms. Within biofilms, there is a division of labor in which genetically identical cells differentiate to serve distinct functions. This cellular differentiation results from a response to extracellular signals that occur due to changes in the local environment of a cell or in response to signaling molecules that the cells themselves produce. In this review, we discuss differentiation in biofilms, focusing on the molecular mechanisms that regulate differentiation in the bacterium Bacillus subtilis. In this organism, there is a subpopulation of cells within a biofilm that produces a signal, while a different subpopulation of cells responds to it. Studying what signals cells use to communicate with each other within a biofilm will allow for better design of strategies to prevent and disrupt biofilms.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)374-379
Number of pages6
JournalMRS Bulletin
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Biological materials
  • adhesion
  • biofilm
  • biomedical


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