Cell-to-cell Communication in Streptococci

The antimicrobial resistance (AMR) crisis is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and societal development. Not only a growing number of infections are becoming harder to treat as pathogenic microbes develop or acquire resistance to antibiotics, but also several modern medical treatments such as Caesarian sections, organ transplantation, immunosuppressive chemotherapy, and implant insertions are at risk since they depend on the availability of effective antibiotic therapy.

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Streptococcus pneumonia

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Estimations suggest that AMR will be responsible for 10 million deaths every year and a total of $100 trillion in economic losses by 2050. Thus, there is an urgent need to reveal novel non-antibiotic based alternative strategies for bacterial infection control.

Bacterial Communication

Despite being often seen as simple unicellular organisms, bacteria are part of a complex environment in their microbial communities. Together in these communities, bacteria are interactive microorganisms that possess an extraordinary repertoire of molecules used in intercellular communication, in order to benefit from their social interactions. This form of communication results in the ability of bacteria to perceive their neighbors through production, secretion and subsequent detection of signaling molecules, ultimately leading the population to coordinate their gene expression providing better resistance, survival and adaptation to the environment. In fact, group behaviors in bacteria such as biofilm formation, virulence, and genetic transfer are often triggered by bacterial communication.

Fighting infections

Recently, the interference of group behavior in bacteria has been gaining attention as a resource to prevent and fight infections. In line with this, the genus Streptococcus is highly relevant as it includes both commensal and pathogenic species that are abundantly present in important niches of our body, such as the oral cavity and the nasopharynx.

Novel pathways and systems

Over the past decades, we have contributed in unveiling novel cell-to-cell communication pathways in streptococci as well as unique features of previously characterized communication systems. We are interested in understanding the biological basis for the occurrence of such systems and their underlying functions, as well as to investigate into their potential to be employed as innovative treatment strategies to prevent and fight infections.


  • Prof. Don Morrison, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA
  • Dr. George (Tsute) Chen, Department of Microbiology, The Forsyth Institute, Cambridge, MA, USA, Department of Oral Medicine, Infection, and Immunology, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, Boston, MA, USA
  • Prof. Antônio Pedro Ricomini Filho, Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Dentistry, University of Campinas, Campinas, Brazil
  • Prof. Jeremy S. Brown, Division of Medicine, University College London, London, UK
  • Prof. Michael Federle, College of Pharmacy, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL, United States.

Project Leader

Fernanda Cristina Petersen

Participants from UiO

Group picture of participants from UiO. Photo: Fredrik Haugen Pedersen, IOB/UiO

Contact Information

Professor Fernanda Petersen: f.c.petersen@odont.uio.no

Postdoctoral fellow Roger Junges: roger.junges@odont.uio.no

PhD Graduates

Gabriela Salvadori da Silva, 2018 (current postdoc)

Roger Junges, 2017 (current postdoc)

Rabia Khan (and previous postdoc), 2015

Håkon Valen, 2014 

Hedda Høvik, 2011

Nibras Ayad Ahmed, 2009

Daniele Pecharki, 2008

Master Students

Mari Hoff Lund, 2016

Shermin Rusthen, 2011

Sayed E. Dabestani, 2011

Tess Karlsalr, 2010

Zunera Butt, 2010

Melody Moezzi, 2006

Jessica Lönn, 2005

Christina Jenseson, 2004

Erasmus students

Elodie Charvet, Polytech Clermont-Ferrand

Coraline Brahemscha, Polytech Clermont-Ferrand

    Main Funding

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    Additional Funding

    Logo NORM     RESISPART - Funded by the Norwegian Research Council

    Norwegian Surveillance System for Antibiotic Resistance in Microbes (NORM)

    RESISPART - Funded by the Norwegian Research Council

    Nansen Funds for Research

    Selected Publications in the Field

    Filho, Antonio Pedro Ricomini; Khan, Rabia; Åmdal, Heidi Aarø & Petersen, Fernanda Cristina (2019). Conserved Pheromone Production, Response and Degradation by Streptococcus mutans. Frontiers in Microbiology.  ISSN 1664-302X.  10 . doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2019.02140 Fulltekst i vitenarkiv.

    Junges, Roger; Salvadori, Gabriela; Chen, Tsute; Morrison, Donald A. & Petersen, Fernanda Cristina (2019). Hidden Gems in the Transcriptome Maps of Competent Streptococci. Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences.  ISSN 2296-889X.  5, s 1- 7 . doi: 10.3389/fmolb.2018.00116 Full text in Research Archive.

    Salvadori, Gabriela; Junges, Roger; Morrison, Donald A. & Petersen, Fernanda Cristina (2019). Competence in Streptococcus pneumoniae and Close Commensal Relatives: Mechanisms and Implications. Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology.  ISSN 2235-2988.  9:94, s 1- 8 . doi: 10.3389/fcimb.2019.00094 Full text in Research Archive.

    Junges, Roger; Sturød, Kjersti; Salvadori, Gabriela; Åmdal, Heidi Aarø; Chen, Tsute & Petersen, Fernanda Cristina (2019). Characterization of a Signaling System in Streptococcus mitis That Mediates Interspecies Communication with Streptococcus pneumoniae. Applied and Environmental Microbiology.  ISSN 0099-2240.  85(2) . doi: 10.1128/AEM.02297-18

    Sturød, Kjersti; Salvadori, Gabriela; Junges, Roger & Petersen, Fernanda Cristina (2018). Antibiotics alter the window of competence for natural transformation in streptococci. Molecular Oral Microbiology.  ISSN 2041-1006.  33(5), s 378- 387 . doi: 10.1111/omi.12240

    Salvadori, Gabriela; Junges, Roger; Åmdal, Heidi Aarø; Chen, T.; Morrison, D.A. & Petersen, Fernanda Cristina (2018). High-resolution profiles of the Streptococcus mitis CSP signaling pathway reveal core and strain-specific regulated genes. BMC Genomics.  ISSN 1471-2164.  19(1) . doi: 10.1186/s12864-018-4802-y Full text in Research Archive.

    Lauren A., Cowley; Petersen, Fernanda Cristina; Junges, Roger; Jimenez, M; Morrison, Donald A. & Hanage, WP (2018). Evolution via recombination: Cell-to-cell contact facilitates larger recombination events in Streptococcus pneumoniae. PLoS Genetics.  ISSN 1553-7390.  14(6) . doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1007410 Full text in Research Archive.

    Junges, Roger; Salvadori, Gabriela; Shekhar, Sudhanshu; Åmdal, Heidi Aarø; Periselneris, Jimstan; Chen, Tsute; Brown, Jeremy S. & Petersen, Fernanda Cristina (2017). A quorum-sensing system that regulates Streptococcus pneumoniae biofilm formation and surface polysaccharide production. mSphere.  ISSN 2379-5042.  2(5), s 1- 18 . doi: 10.1128/mSphere.00324-17 Full text in Research Archive.

    Khan, Rabia; Junges, Roger; Åmdal, Heidi Aarø; Chen, Tsute; Morrison, Donald A & Petersen, Fernanda Cristina (2017). A positive feedback loop mediated by Sigma X enhances expression of the streptococcal regulator ComR. Scientific Reports.  ISSN 2045-2322.  7(1) . doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-04768-5 Full text in Research Archive.

    Junges, Roger; Khan, Rabia; Tovpeko, Yanina; Åmdal, Heidi Aarø; Petersen, Fernanda Cristina & Morrison, Donald (2017). Markerless genome editing in competent streptococci. Methods in molecular biology.  ISSN 1064-3745.  1537, s 233- 247 . doi: 10.1007/978-1-4939-6685-1_14 Full text in Research Archive.

    Salvadori, Gabriela; Junges, Roger; Khan, Rabia; Åmdal, Heidi Aarø; Morrison, Donald A. & Petersen, Fernanda Cristina (2017). Natural transformation of oral streptococci by use of synthetic pheromones. Methods in molecular biology.  ISSN 1064-3745.  s 219- 232 . doi: 10.1007/978-1-4939-6685-1_13 Full text in Research Archive.

    Khan, Rabia; Rukke, Håkon Valen; Høvik, Hedda; Åmdal, Heidi Aarø; Chen, T.; Morrison, Donald A. & Petersen, Fernanda Cristina (2016). Comprehensive Transcriptome Profiles of Streptococcus mutans UA159 Map Core Streptococcal Competence Genes. mSystems.  ISSN 2379-5077.  1(2) . doi: 10.1128/mSystems.00038-15 Fulltekst i vitenarkiv.

    Salvadori, Gabriela; Junges, Roger; Morrison, Donald A. & Petersen, Fernanda Cristina (2016). Overcoming the barrier of low efficiency during Genetic transformation of Streptococcus mitis. Frontiers in Microbiology.  ISSN 1664-302X.  7 . doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2016.01009 Full text in Research Archive.

    Morrison, D.A.; Khan, Rabia; Junges, Roger; Åmdal, Heidi Aarø & Petersen, Fernanda Cristina (2015). Genome editing by natural genetic transformation in Streptococcus mutans. Journal of Microbiological Methods.  ISSN 0167-7012.  119, s 134- 141 . doi: 10.1016/j.mimet.2015.09.023

    Khan R, Rukke HV, Ricomini Filho AP, Fimland G, Arntzen MØ, Thiede B, Petersen FC. (2012) Extracellular identification of a processed type II ComR/ComS pheromone of Streptococcus mutans. 2012 Aug;194(15):3781-8. doi: 10.1128/JB.00624-12. Epub 2012 May 18. PMID: 22609914

    Petersen FC, Scheie AA. (2010). Natural transformation of oral streptococci. Methods Mol Biol. 2010;666:167-80. doi: 10.1007/978-1-60761-820-1_12. PMID: 20717785

    Ahmed NA, Petersen FC, Scheie AA. (2009). AI-2/LuxS is involved in increased biofilm formation by Streptococcus intermedius in the presence of antibiotics. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2009 Oct;53(10):4258-63. doi: 10.1128/AAC.00546-09. Epub 2009 Jul 13.PMID: 19596873 Free PMC article.

    Lönn-Stensrud J, Landin MA, Benneche T, Petersen FC, Scheie AA. (2009). Furanones, potential agents for preventing Staphylococcus epidermidis biofilm infections? J Antimicrob Chemother. 2009 Feb;63(2):309-16. doi: 10.1093/jac/dkn501. Epub 2008 Dec 20.PMID: 19098295

    Ahmed NA, Petersen FC, Scheie AA. (2007) AI-2 quorum sensing affects antibiotic susceptibility in Streptococcus anginosus. J Antimicrob Chemother. 2007 Jul;60(1):49-53. doi: 10.1093/jac/dkm124. Epub 2007 May 9.PMID: 17491000

    Petersen FC, Fimland G, Scheie AA. (2006) Purification and functional studies of a potent modified quorum-sensing peptide and a two-peptide bacteriocin in Streptococcus mutans.

    Mol Microbiol. 2006 Sep;61(5):1322-34. doi: 10.1111/j.13652958.2006.05312.x. PMID: 16925560

    Petersen FC, Ahmed NA, Naemi A, Scheie AA. (2006) LuxS-mediated signalling in Streptococcus anginosus and its role in biofilm formation. Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek. 2006 Aug;90(2):109-21. doi: 10.1007/s10482-006-9065-y. Epub 2006 Aug 2.PMID: 16897563

    Petersen FC, Tao L, Scheie AA. (2005) DNA binding-uptake system: a link between cell-to-cell communication and biofilm formation. J Bacteriol. 2005 Jul;187(13):4392-400. doi: 10.1128/JB.187.13.4392-4400.2005.PMID: 15968048 Free PMC article.

    Petersen FC, Pecharki D, Scheie AA. (2004) Biofilm mode of growth of Streptococcus intermedius favored by a competence-stimulating signaling peptide. J Bacteriol. 2004 Sep;186(18):6327-31. doi: 10.1128/JB.186.18.6327-6331.2004.PMID: 15342606 Free PMC article.



    Tags: Streptococci, communication, infections, AMR By Roger Junges
    Published July 16, 2020 11:16 AM - Last modified Oct. 25, 2021 2:06 PM