Drs. Hao Chen and Gerald Fink (MIT) have discovered a novel quorum-sensing pathway in S. cerevisiae. Their paper, to be published online ahead of print in Genes & Development, provides unprecedented mechanistic insight into how individual yeast cells can coordinate their growth patterns to best respond to both nutrient availability as well as population density. While quorum sensing is a well-established mode of intercellular communication in bacteria, its role in fungal systems is still emerging. Dr. Chen and Fink found that S. cerevisiae use aromatic alcohols as signals to stimulate filamentous growth in response to nitrogen starvation. Interestingly, these molecules elicited different effects in the yeast strain, Candida albicans, suggesting that these newly identified fungal quorum sensing signals are species-specific. "The ability of these quorum sensing molecules to stimulate growth or alter morphology could be important in pathogen virulence where the infecting organism is initially present in only small numbers of cells," adds Dr. Fink.