Quorum sensing: Implications on rhamnolipid biosurfactant production

Devendra H. Dusane, Smita S. Zinjarde, Vayalam P. Venugopalan, Robert J. C. McLean, Mary M. Weber, Pattanathu K. S. M. Rahman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Quorum sensing (QS) has received significant attention in the past few decades. QS describes population density dependent cell to cell communication in bacteria using diffusible signal molecules. These signal molecules produced by bacterial cells, regulate various physiological processes important for social behavior and pathogenesis. One such process regulated by quorum sensing molecules is the production of a biosurfactant, rhamnolipid. Rhamnolipids are important microbially derived surface active agents produced by Pseudomonas spp. under the control of two interrelated quorum sensing systems; namely las and rhl. Rhamnolipids possess antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. They are important in motility, cell to cell interactions, cellular differentiation and formation of water channels that Currently, biosurfactants are unable to compete economically with chemically synthesized compounds in the market due to high production costs. Once the genes required for biosurfactant production have been identified, they can be placed under the regulation of strong promoters in nonpathogenic, heterologous hosts to enhance production. The production of rhamnolipids could be increased by cloning both the rhlAB rhamnosyltransferase genes and the rhlRI quorum sensing system into a suitable bacterium such as E. coli or P. putida and facilitate rhamnolipid production. Biosurfactants can also be genetically engineered for different industrial applications assuming there is a strong understanding of both the genetics and the structure-function relationships of each component of the molecule. Genetic engineering of surfactin has already been reported, with recent papers describing the creation of novel peptide structures from the genetic recombination of several peptide synthetases. Recent application of dynamic metabolic engineering strategies for controlled gene expression could lower the cost of fermentation processes by increasing the product formation. Therefore, by integrating a genetic circuit into applications of metabolic engineering the biochemical production can be optimized. Furthermore, novel strategies could be designed on the basis of information obtained from the studies of quorum sensing and biosurfactants produced suggesting enormous practical applications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-184
Number of pages26
JournalBiotechnology and Genetic Engineering Reviews
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2013


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