Wisdom of the crowd

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Science  06 Mar 2020:
Vol. 367, Issue 6482, pp. 1087-1088
DOI: 10.1126/science.367.6482.1087-g

Quorum sensing is used by bacteria to sense local cell density in order to regulate and coordinate a wide array of functions, including biofilm formation. Muldoon et al. report that a somewhat analogous process may play a role in macrophage responses. Macrophages exposed to bacterial lipopolysaccharide—a potent immune stimulant—showed a bimodal activation profile that could be tuned by adjusting cell density before stimulation. The authors then used dynamical modeling and single-cell tracking to propose a mechanism they termed quorum licensing. In bacterial quorum sensing, all players are uniformly activated. By contrast, quorum licensing entails the transformation of “digital” single-cell decisions into “analog” population-wide outputs. This phenomenon may help macrophages limit inflammatory responses to local sites of injury and infection.

Nat. Commun. 11, 878 (2020).

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