Thinking and decision making, bacterial style: Bacterial Neural Networks, Obernai, France, 7th-12th June 2002.
Armitage JP., Dorman CJ., Hellingwerf K., Schmitt R., Summers D., Holland B.
Bacteria exhibit a bewildering range of behavioural responses and permutations of metabolic pathways for maximum exploitation of their environment. These are based on sensory perception of external and internal signals through batteries of surface and cytoplasmic receptors, evaluation of complex information flows and rapid decision making. Appreciation of the diversity of bacterial behaviour and adaptation capacities requires the study of a broad range of organisms and at this meeting we sampled more than 30 species with new findings which included the nature of gaseous receptors, advances in chemotaxis, subversion of host defences by pathogens, adaptation to high salt, community life and its obvious benefits, cell to cell communications and even the nature of bacterial circadian rhythms. With around 80 bacterial genomes now completed, and many more almost there, it was appropriate to complete the meeting with an introduction to Systems Biology and prospects for simulating the virtual cell. The versatility and seemingly 'intelligent' behaviour of bacteria will continue to fascinate, and this meeting on Bacterial Neural Networks fully reflected the excitement of this field.