WMU Home > WMU News

WMU News

What happens when bacteria converse at dinner?

Jan. 27, 2009

KALAMAZOO--How one of the tiniest life forms on Earth communicates will be discussed during a presentation called "Bacterial Dinner Conversations" from 12:30 to 1:45 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 5, in Room 1220 of Western Michigan University's Chemistry Building.

The talk is free and open to the public and will be given by Dr. Marvin Whiteley, assistant professor of molecular genetics and microbiology at the University of Texas at Austin and WMU's 2009 Bach Visiting Lecturer.

Whiteley says one example of social behavior in bacteria is the use of small molecules to communicate within a bacterial population. Referred to as quorum sensing, this process allows bacteria to amass a coordinated response to accomplish tasks that would be difficult to achieve for a single bacterium.

The research that Whiteley conducts focuses on understanding the mechanism of signal trafficking between bacterial cells and how these signals are perceived by individual cells. His overall goal is to understand signal trafficking and perception at the molecular level as well as to provide an ecological role for these communication systems in the natural environment.

"Recent evidence in our laboratory indicates that some bacteria package signals into membrane vesicles that facilitate delivery of these molecules to other cells within the population," Whiteley says. "This mechanism of signal trafficking is significantly impacted by the nutritional environment, and studies are currently under way to understand how specific nutritional cues impact the ability of bacterial cells to produce and perceive signals."

WMU's 2009 Bach Lecture is being sponsored by the Michael K. Bach Distinguished Visiting Lectureship Endowment Fund and the Department of Biological Sciences.

For more information, contact Dr. John R. Geiser, associate professor of biological sciences, at (269) 387-5600.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, (269) 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

WMU News
Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
(269) 387-8400