Switches induced by quorum sensing in a model of enzyme-loaded microparticles

Tamás Bánsági, Annette F. Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (SciVal)


Quorum sensing refers to the ability of bacteria and other single-celled organisms to respond to changes in cell density or number with population-wide changes in behaviour. Here, simulations were performed to investigate quorum sensing in groups of diffusively coupled enzyme microparticles using a well-characterized autocatalytic reaction which raises the pH of the medium: hydrolysis of urea by urease. The enzyme urease is found in both plants and microorganisms, and has been widely exploited in engineering processes. We demonstrate how increases in group size can be used to achieve a sigmoidal switch in pH at high enzyme loading, oscillations in pH at intermediate enzyme loading and a bistable, hysteretic switch at low enzyme loading. Thus, quorum sensing can be exploited to obtain different types of response in the same system, depending on the enzyme concentration. The implications for microorganisms in colonies are discussed, and the results could help in the design of synthetic quorum sensing for biotechnology applications such as drug delivery.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20170945
JournalJournal of The Royal Society Interface
Issue number140
Publication statusPublished - 7 Mar 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research was supported by Engineering and Physical Science Research Council grant no. EP/K030574/2.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.


  • Enzyme microparticles
  • Feedback
  • Oscillations
  • Quorum sensing
  • Switches

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biophysics
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering


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