Microbial communication, particularly that of quorum sensing, plays an important role in regulating gene expression in a range of organisms. Although this phenomenon has been well studied in relation to, for example, virulence gene regulation, the focus of this article is to review our understanding of the role of microbial communication in extreme environments. Cell signaling regulates many important microbial processes and may play a pivotal role in driving microbial functional diversity and ultimately ecosystem function in extreme environments. Several recent studies have characterized cell signaling in modern analogs to early Earth communities (microbial mats), and characterization of cell signaling systems in these communities may provide unique insights in understanding the microbial interactions involved in function and survival in extreme environments. Cell signaling is a fundamental process that may have co-evolved with communities and environmental conditions on the early Earth. Without cell signaling, evolutionary pressures may have even resulted in the extinction rather than evolution of certain microbial groups. One of the biggest challenges in extremophile biology is understanding how and why some microbial functional groups are located where logically they would not be expected to survive, and tightly regulated communication may be key. Finally, quorum sensing has been recently identified for the first time in archaea, and thus communication at multiple levels (potentially even inter-domain) may be fundamental in extreme environments.
Montgomery, K., Charlesworth, J., LeBard, R., Visscher, P., & Burns, B. (2013). Quorum Sensing in Extreme Environments. Life, 3(1), 131–148. https://doi.org/10.3390/life3010131