Mechanisms and Role of Social Behavior in Bacteria
Dr. Chandler's research is focused on understanding how bacteria communicate and cooperate with each other to carry out complex group behaviors. She primarily studies a cell-cell communication system in bacteria called quorum sensing. Most quorum sensing systems become activated when the bacterial population reaches a critical cell density. Quorum sensing commonly controls production of extracellular factors, such as toxins, exoenzymes, and components involved in self-structured biofilm-like communities. Production of extracellular factors often involves cooperation because the factors can be shared among all of the members of a population. Much is known about the molecular biology of quorum sensing, but our understanding of its role in promoting group or cooperative activities remains obscure. Using Burkholderia thailandensis as a model, Dr. Chandler developed laboratory systems to understand how quorum sensing and cooperation are important for 1) competition between bacteria using antibiotics and 2) formation of self-structured communities. This work will promote our ability to create, maintain and manipulate cooperating bacterial communities that carry out important biological functions. In addition, bacteria serve as an excellent model for understanding the evolution of sociality.