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Upcoming Event

Quorum Sensing Across Domains: from Viruses to Bacteria to Eukaryotes

The Norton Zinder Lecture

Event Details

Friday Lecture Series
Bonnie Bassler, Ph.D., Squibb Professor and Chair, department of molecular biology, Princeton University; investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Speaker bio(s)

Bacteria communicate with one another via the production and detection of secreted signal molecules called autoinducers. This cell-to-cell communication process, called “Quorum Sensing”, allows bacteria to synchronize behavior on a population-wide scale. The Bassler Lab showed that behaviors controlled by quorum sensing are ones that are unproductive when undertaken by an individual bacterium acting alone but become effective when undertaken in unison by the group. For example, quorum sensing controls virulence factor production and biofilm formation. They found that eukaryotes that harbor quorum-sensing bacteria participate in these chemical conversations by providing the substrates bacteria need to make autoinducers. Finally, the Bassler Lab found that quorum-sensing autoinducer information can be hijacked by viruses that infect and kill bacteria. Thus, interactions across the eukaryotic, bacterial, and viral domains all rely on quorum sensing. Using what they have learned, they have built quorum-sensing disruption strategies for development into new anti-microbials. They have also engineered viruses to respond to user-defined inputs, rather than the bacterial autoinducers, to make phage therapies that kill particular bacterial pathogens on demand.

Bonnie Bassler grew up in northern California. As a young person, she adored nature and animals and hoped to be a veterinarian when she grew up. However, she became fascinated with biochemistry and molecular biology when she went to college, so she switched direction. Bonnie received a B.S. in Biochemistry from the University of California at Davis and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Johns Hopkins University. She performed postdoctoral work with Michael Silverman in Genetics at the Agouron Institute. Bonnie joined the Princeton faculty in 1994. Her research focuses on molecular mechanisms that bacteria use for intercellular communication; a process called quorum sensing. Bonnie’s discoveries are paving the way to novel therapies to combat disease-causing bacteria. She received prizes including a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, the Shaw Prize in Life Sciences and Medicine, the Pearl Meister Greengard Prize, the Dickson Prize in Medicine, the Gruber Genetics Prize, the Wolf Prize in Chemistry, and the Canada Gairdner International Prize. Bonnie received Princeton’s President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching. She is devoted to diversity in the sciences and educating lay people about the thrill and relevance of scientific research. Bassler has performed national and international service. Three examples are: Bassler was the President of the American Society for Microbiology. She chaired the American Academy of Microbiology Board of Governors. She was a member of the National Science Board for six years and was nominated to that position by President Barack Obama. The Board oversees the NSF and prioritizes the nation’s research and educational activities in science, math, and engineering.

FLS lectures will take place in Caspary Auditorium and virtually via Zoom. We recommend virtual participants log out of VPN prior to logging in to Zoom. Please do not share the link or post on social media. This talk will be recorded for the RU community. 

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