Social behaviours by Bacillus subtilis: quorum sensing, kin discrimination and beyond

Margarita Kalamara, Mihael Špacapan, Ines Mandic‐Mulec (Lead / Corresponding author), Nicola Stanley-Wall (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

85 Citations (Scopus)
265 Downloads (Pure)


Here we review the multiple mechanisms that the Gram‐positive bacterium Bacillus subtilis uses to allow it to communicate between cells and establish community structures. The modes of action that are used are highly varied and include routes that sense pheromone levels during quorum sensing and control gene regulation, the intimate coupling of cells via nanotubes to share cytoplasmic contents, and long range electrical signalling to couple metabolic processes both within and between biofilms. We explore the ability of B. subtilis to detect “kin” (and “cheater cells”) by looking at the mechanisms used to potentially ensure beneficial sharing (or limit exploitation) of extracellular “public goods”. Finally reflecting on the array of methods that a single bacterium has at its disposal to ensure maximal benefit for its progeny, we highlight that a large future challenge will be integrating how these systems interact in mixed species communities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)863-878
Number of pages16
JournalMolecular Microbiology
Issue number6
Early online date14 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018


  • Bacillus subtilis
  • quorum sensing
  • nanotubes
  • electrical signalling kin‐selection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Microbiology


Dive into the research topics of 'Social behaviours by Bacillus subtilis: quorum sensing, kin discrimination and beyond'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this