Detection of autoinducer (AI-2)-like activity in food samples.
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The contamination, survival, and possible foodborne disease outbreaks are major issues confronting the food industry. However, from a microbial perspective, any food whether natural or processed is just another environmental niche that is available for colonization. Quorum sensing or cell-cell communication is a process by which microorganisms are thought to communicate with each other using a variety of small molecules termed autoinducers. The autoinducer AI-2 is thought to be a universal signaling molecule due to its ability to modulate the gene expression of a number of different bacterial species and genera. Pathogens such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Aeromonas hydrophila, Vibrio anguillarum, Streptococcus sp., and Burkholderia cepacia form biofilms on a variety of man-made and natural surfaces using cell-cell mechanisms. It is important to detect and study autoinducers and their activities in foods, since a better understanding of these molecules in food and food ingredients may help in designing new approaches to thwart microbial persistence and biofilm formation. The autoinducer AI-2 is thought to be involved in microbial attachment and biofilm formation leading to food spoilage. To better understand microbial cell-cell signaling in foods especially as it relates to pathogen persistence, biofilm formation, and food spoilage, methods to process, extract, and purify autoinducer molecules need to be developed. This chapter details methods to process food samples to obtain cell-free supernatants (CFS), which could subsequently be tested for the presence of AI-2 or "AI-2-like activity" in the extracted CFS using autoinducer bioassays. Additionally, the method of synthesizing AI-2 in the laboratory is also provided. The methods that are presented in this chapter are based on previously published research articles from the authors' laboratory.