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October 19, 2018

Biozentrum Lecture with Bonnie L. Bassler

Prof. Bonnie L. Bassler is known for her research on bacterial communication. She discovered that bacteria use a chemical language to “talk” to each other. This process, called quorum sensing, allows bacteria to coordinate their behaviors. In her Biozentrum Lecture, the microbiologist will speak about her recent discovery that a bacteriophage uses the quorum-sensing signal of the cholera pathogen, and provide a brief look into potential applications of reprogrammable phages.


Biofilm formation, the production of light in deep-sea fish or the release of virulence factors – all these different kinds of “social” behavior rely on the communication skills of bacteria. The finding that bacteria “talk” to each other, a process called quorum sensing, has been one of the major discoveries in microbiology. 

A bacteriophage that understands the bacterial language

Prof. Bonnie Bassler has been a pioneer in the field of translating the bacterial language. She revealed that bacteria release chemical signals that can be perceived by neighboring bacteria. This way of communication enables the bacteria to coordinate their behavior and to act as a group. In the Biozentrum Lecture, Bassler will present her latest research findings about a bacteriophage that can understand the language of the cholera pathogen V. cholerae and uses this “knowledge” to switch on bacterial killing programs.

Based on this knowledge, Bassler and her team developed a phage modular system by reprogramming bacteriophages to be responsive to user-defined cues. These reprogrammable phage modules, which act as “kill switches”, are potentially useful for environmental, industrial and medical applications. 

About Bonnie Bassler

Bonnie L. Bassler is Squibb Professor and Chair in Molecular Biology at Princeton University and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. She received her PhD in Biochemistry from the Johns Hopkins University. After postdoctoral work at the Agouron Institute, she joined the Princeton faculty in 1994. The American microbiologist has been awarded several prizes including the Shaw Prize in Life Science and Medicine, the Wiley Prize in Biomedical Sciences, the Dickson Prize in Medicine and is a Fellow of the Royal Society.

The final presentation in this year’s Biozentrum Lectures series held by Prof. Bonnie Bassler will take place on Friday, October 26, 2018, at 12:15 pm in Lecture Hall 1 of the Pharmazentrum, Klingelbergstrasse 50/70. All interested persons are welcome to attend.

Contact: Communications, Katrin Bühler