• Cell–cell communication;
  • Quorum sensing ;
  • Synthetic biology;
  • Synthetic ecosystems


A major aim of synthetic biology is to program novel cellular behavior using engineered gene circuits. Early endeavors focused on building simple circuits that fulfill simple functions, such as logic gates, bistable toggle switches, and oscillators. These gene circuits have primarily focused on single-cell behaviors since they operate intracellularly. Thus, they are often susceptible to cell–cell variations due to stochastic gene expression. Cell–cell communication offers an efficient strategy to coordinate cellular behavior at the population level. To this end, we review recent advances in engineering cell–cell communication to achieve reliable population dynamics, spanning from communication within single species to multispecies, from one-way sender–receiver communication to two-way communication in synthetic microbial ecosystems. These engineered systems serve as well-defined model systems to better understand design principles of their naturally occurring counterparts and to facilitate novel biotechnology applications.