Streptococcus mutans, the primary etiological agent of human dental caries, has developed multiple mechanisms to colonize and form biofilms on the tooth surface. The brpA gene codes for a predicted surface-associated protein with apparent roles in biofilm formation, autolysis, and cell division. In this study, we used two models to further characterize the biofilm-forming characteristics of a BrpA-deficient mutant, strain TW14. Compared to those of the parent strain, UA159, TW14 formed long chains and sparse microcolonies on hydroxylapatite disks but failed to accumulate and form three-dimensional biofilms when grown on glucose as the carbohydrate source. The biofilm formation defect was also readily apparent by confocal laser scanning microscopy when flow cells were used to grow biofilms. When subjected to acid killing at pH 2.8 for 45 min, the survival rate of strain TW14 was more than 1 log lower than that of the wild-type strain. TW14 was at least 3 logs more susceptible to killing by 0.2% hydrogen peroxide than was UA159. The expression of more than 200 genes was found by microarray analysis to be altered in cells lacking BrpA (P < 0.01). These results suggest that the loss of BrpA can dramatically influence the transcriptome and significantly affects the regulation of acid and oxidative stress tolerance and biofilm formation in S. mutans, which are key virulence attributes of the organism.
Previous studies have shown that BrpA plays a major role in acid and oxidative stress tolerance and biofilm formation by Streptococcus mutans. Mutant strains lacking BrpA also display increased autolysis and decreased viability, suggesting a role for BrpA in cell envelope integrity. In this study, we examined the impact of BrpA deficiency on cell envelope stresses induced by envelope-active antimicrobials. Compared to the wild-type strain UA159, the BrpA-deficient mutant (TW14D) was significantly more susceptible to antimicrobial agents, especially lipid II inhibitors. Several genes involved in peptidoglycan synthesis were identified by DNA microarray analysis as downregulated in TW14D. Luciferase reporter gene fusion assays also revealed that expression of brpA is regulated in response to environmental conditions and stresses induced by exposure to subinhibitory concentrations of cell envelope antimicrobials. In a Galleria mellonella (wax worm) model, BrpA deficiency was shown to diminish the virulence of S. mutans OMZ175, which, unlike S. mutans UA159, efficiently kills the worms. Collectively, these results suggest that BrpA plays a role in the regulation of cell envelope integrity and that deficiency of BrpA adversely affects the fitness and diminishes the virulence of OMZ175, a highly invasive strain of S. mutans.
Streptococcus mutans is implicated as a major etiological agent in human dental caries, and one of the important virulence properties of this organism is its ability to form biofilms (dental plaque) on tooth surfaces. We examined the role of autoinducer-2 (AI-2) on S. mutans biofilm formation by constructing a GS-5 luxS-null mutant. Biofilm formation by the luxS mutant in 0.5% sucrose defined medium was found to be markedly attenuated compared to the wild type. Scanning electron microscopy also revealed that biofilms of the luxS mutant formed larger clumps in sucrose medium compared to the parental strain. Therefore, the expression of glucosyltransferase genes was examined and the gtfB and gtfC genes, but not the gtfD gene, in the luxS mutant were upregulated in the mid-log growth phase. Furthermore, we developed a novel two-compartment system to monitor AI-2 production by oral streptococci and periodontopathic bacteria. The biofilm defect of the luxS mutant was complemented by strains of S. gordonii, S. sobrinus, and S. anginosus; however, it was not complemented by S. oralis, S. salivarius, or S. sanguinis. Biofilm formation by the luxS mutant was also complemented by Porphyromonas gingivalis 381 and Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans Y4 but not by a P. gingivalis luxS mutant. These results suggest that the regulation of the glucosyltransferase genes required for sucrose-dependent biofilm formation is regulated by AI-2. Furthermore, these results provide further confirmation of previous proposals that quorum sensing via AI-2 may play a significant role in oral biofilm formation.
Streptococcus mutans has been strongly implicated as the principal etiological agent in dental caries. One of the important virulence properties of these organisms is their ability to form biofilms known as dental plaque on tooth surfaces. Since the roles of sucrose and glucosyltransferases in S. mutans biofilm formation have been well documented, we focused our attention on sucrose-independent factors. We have initially identified several mutants that appear to be defective in biofilm formation on abiotic surfaces by an insertional inactivation mutagenesis strategy applied to S. mutans. A total of 27 biofilm-defective mutants were isolated and analyzed in this study. From these mutants, three genes were identified. One of the mutants was defective in the Bacillus subtilis lytR homologue. Another of the biofilm-defective mutants isolated was a yulF homologue, which encodes a hypothetical protein of B. subtilis whose function in biofilm formation is unknown. The vast majority of the mutants were defective in the comB gene required for competence. We therefore have constructed and examined comACDE null mutants. These mutants were also found to be attenuated in biofilm formation. Biofilm formation by several other regulatory gene mutants were also characterized using an in vitro biofilm-forming assay. These results suggest that competence genes as well as the sgp and dgk genes may play important roles in S. mutans biofilm formation.
Quorum sensing is a bacterial mechanism for regulating gene expression in response to changes in population density. Many bacteria are capable of acyl-homoserine lactone-based or peptide-based intraspecies quorum sensing and luxS-dependent interspecies quorum sensing. While there is good evidence about the involvement of intraspecies quorum sensing in bacterial biofilm, little is known about the role of luxS in biofilm formation. In this study, we report for the first time that luxS-dependent quorum sensing is involved in biofilm formation of Streptococcus mutans. S. mutans is a major cariogenic bacterium in the multispecies bacterial biofilm commonly known as dental plaque. An ortholog of luxS for S. mutans was identified using the data available in the S. mutans genome project (http://www.genome.ou.edu/smutans.html). Using an assay developed for the detection of the LuxS-associated quorum sensing signal autoinducer 2 (AI-2), it was demonstrated that this ortholog was able to complement the luxS negative phenotype of Escherichia coli DH5α. It was also shown that AI-2 is indeed produced by S. mutans. AI-2 production is maximal during mid- to late-log growth in batch culture. Mutant strains devoid of the luxS gene were constructed and found to be defective in producing the AI-2 signal. There are also marked phenotypic differences between the wild type and the luxS mutants. Microscopic analysis of in vitro-grown biofilm structure revealed that the luxS mutant biofilms adopted a much more granular appearance, rather than the relatively smooth, confluent layer normally seen in the wild type. These results suggest that LuxS-dependent signal may play an important role in biofilm formation of S. mutans.
The Streptococcus mutans atlA gene encodes an autolysin required for biofilm maturation and biogenesis of a normal cell surface. We found that the capacity to form biofilms by S. mutans, one of the principal causative agents of dental caries, was dramatically impaired by growth of the organism in an aerated environment and that cells exposed to oxygen displayed marked changes in surface protein profiles. Inactivation of the atlA gene alleviated repression of biofilm formation in the presence of oxygen. Also, the formation of long chains, a characteristic of AtlA-deficient strains, was less evident in cells grown with aeration. The SMu0629 gene is immediately upstream of atlA and encodes a product that contains a C-X-X-C motif, a characteristic of thiol-disulfide oxidoreductases. Inactivation of SMu0629 significantly reduced the levels of AtlA protein and led to resistance to autolysis. The SMu0629 mutant also displayed an enhanced capacity to form biofilms in the presence of oxygen compared to that of the parental strain. The expression of SMu0629 was shown to be under the control of the VicRK two-component system, which influences oxidative stress tolerance in S. mutans. Disruption of vicK also led to inhibition of processing of AtlA, and the mutant was hyperresistant to autolysis. When grown under aerobic conditions, the vicK mutant also showed significantly increased biofilm formation compared to strain UA159. This study illustrates the central role of AtlA and VicK in orchestrating growth on surfaces and envelope biogenesis in response to redox conditions.
We previously reported that LuxS in Streptococcus mutans is involved in stress tolerance and biofilm formation. In this study, flowcells and confocal laser scanning microscopy were used to further examine the effects of LuxS-deficiency on biofilm formation. Similar to the wild-type strain (UA159), a strain deficient in LuxS (TW26D) bound efficiently to the flowcells and formed microcolonies 4 h after inoculation. Unlike UA159, which accumulated and formed compact, evenly distributed biofilms after 28 h, TW26D showed only loose, sporadic, thin biofilms. DNA microarray analysis revealed alterations in transcription of more than 60 genes in TW26D biofilms by at least 1.5-fold (P < 0.001). Among the upregulated genes were those for sugar-specific enzymes II of the phosphotransferase (PTS) system and the atp operon, which codes for the proton-pumping F-ATPase. Of the downregulated genes, several encode proteins with putative functions in DNA repair. Mutation of selected genes caused severe defects in the ability of the mutants to tolerate low pH and oxidative stress. These results provide additional proof that LuxS-deficiency causes global alterations in the expression of genes central to biofilm formation and virulence of S. mutans, including those involved in energy metabolism, DNA repair and stress tolerance.
biofilms; dental caries; DNA array analysis; quorum sensing; Streptococcus mutans
Streptococcus mutans has been recognized as an important etiological agent in human dental caries. Some strains of S. mutans also produce bacteriocins. In this study, we sought to demonstrate that bacteriocin production by S. mutans strains GS5 and BM71 was mediated by quorum sensing, which is dependent on a competence-stimulating peptide (CSP) signaling system encoded by the com genes. We also demonstrated that interactions with some other oral streptococci interfered with S. mutans bacteriocin production both in broth and in biofilms. The inhibition of S. mutans bacteriocin production by oral bacteria was stronger in biofilms than in broth. Using transposon Tn916 mutagenesis, we identified a gene (sgc; named for Streptococcus gordonii challisin) responsible for the inhibition of S. mutans bacteriocin production by S. gordonii Challis. Interruption of the sgc gene in S. gordonii Challis resulted in attenuated inhibition of S. mutans bacteriocin production. The supernatant fluids from the sgc mutant did not inactivate the exogenous S. mutans CSP as did those from the parent strain Challis. S. gordonii Challis did not inactivate bacteriocin produced by S. mutans GS5. Because S. mutans uses quorum sensing to regulate virulence, strategies designed to interfere with these signaling systems may have broad applicability for biological control of this caries-causing organism.
Communication based on autoinducer 2 (AI-2) is widespread among gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria, and the AI-2 pathway can control the expression of genes involved in a variety of metabolic pathways and pathogenic mechanisms. In the present study, we identified luxS, a gene responsible for the synthesis of AI-2, in Streptococcus gordonii, a major component of the dental plaque biofilm. S. gordonii conditioned medium induced bioluminescence in an AI-2 reporter strain of Vibrio harveyi. An isogenic mutant of S. gordonii, generated by insertional inactivation of the luxS gene, was unaffected in growth and in its ability to form biofilms on polystyrene surfaces. In contrast, the mutant strain failed to induce bioluminescence in V. harveyi and was unable to form a mixed species biofilm with a LuxS-null strain of the periodontal pathogen Porphyromonas gingivalis. Complementation of the luxS mutation in S. gordonii restored normal biofilm formation with the luxS-deficient P. gingivalis. Differential display PCR demonstrated that the inactivation of S. gordonii luxS downregulated the expression of a number of genes, including gtfG, encoding glucosyltransferase; fruA, encoding extracellular exo-β-d-fructosidase; and lacD encoding tagatose 1,6-diphosphate aldolase. However, S. gordonii cell surface expression of SspA and SspB proteins, previously implicated in mediating adhesion between S. gordonii and P. gingivalis, was unaffected by inactivation of luxS. The results suggest that S. gordonii produces an AI-2-like signaling molecule that regulates aspects of carbohydrate metabolism in the organism. Furthermore, LuxS-dependent intercellular communication is essential for biofilm formation between nongrowing cells of P. gingivalis and S. gordonii.
In a previous study, a quorum-sensing signaling system essential for genetic competence in Streptococcus mutans was identified, characterized, and found to function optimally in biofilms (Li et al., J. Bacteriol. 183:897-908, 2001). Here, we demonstrate that this system also plays a role in the ability of S. mutans to initiate biofilm formation. To test this hypothesis, S. mutans wild-type strain NG8 and its knockout mutants defective in comC, comD, comE, and comX, as well as a comCDE deletion mutant, were assayed for their ability to initiate biofilm formation. The spatial distribution and architecture of the biofilms were examined by scanning electron microscopy and confocal scanning laser microscopy. The results showed that inactivation of any of the individual genes under study resulted in the formation of an abnormal biofilm. The comC mutant, unable to produce or secrete a competence-stimulating peptide (CSP), formed biofilms with altered architecture, whereas the comD and comE mutants, which were defective in sensing and responding to the CSP, formed biofilms with reduced biomass. Exogenous addition of the CSP and complementation with a plasmid containing the wild-type comC gene into the cultures restored the wild-type biofilm architecture of comC mutants but showed no effect on the comD, comE, or comX mutant biofilms. The fact that biofilms formed by comC mutants differed from the comD, comE, and comX mutant biofilms suggested that multiple signal transduction pathways were affected by CSP. Addition of synthetic CSP into the culture medium or introduction of the wild-type comC gene on a shuttle vector into the comCDE deletion mutant partially restored the wild-type biofilm architecture and further supported this idea. We conclude that the quorum-sensing signaling system essential for genetic competence in S. mutans is important for the formation of biofilms by this gram-positive organism.
Streptococcus mutans (S. mutans), harboring biofilm formation, considered as a main aetiological factor of dental caries. Gtf genes play an important role in S. mutans biofilm formation. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of Lactobacillus acidophilus–derived biosurfactant on S. mutans biofilm formation and gtfB/C expression level (S. mutans standard strain ATCC35668 and isolated S. mutans strain (22) from dental plaque).
The Lactobacillus acidophilus (L. acidophilus) DSM 20079 was selected as a probiotic strain to produce biosurfactant. The FTIR analysis of its biosurfactant showed that it appears to have a protein-like component. Due to the release of such biosurfactants, L. acidophilus was able to interfere in the adhesion and biofilm formation of the S. mutans to glass slide. It also could make streptococcal chains shorter. Using realtime RT-PCR quantitation method made it clear that gtfB and gtfC gene expression were decreased in the presence of L. acidophilus–derived biosurfactant fraction.
Several properties of S. mutans cells (the surface properties, biofilm formation, adhesion ability and gene expression) were changed after L. acidophilus- derived biosurfactant treatment. It is also concluded that biosurfacant treatment can provide an optional way to control biofilm development. On the basis of our findings, we can suggest that the prepared biosurfactant may interfere with adhesion processes of S. mutans to teeth surfaces, provided additional evaluation produce satisfactory results.
Biofilm formation; biosurfactant; gtfB/C; Lactobacillus acidophilus; real-time RT PCR; Streptococcus mutans
Adhesion and successful colonization of bacteria onto solid surfaces play a key role in biofilm formation. The initial adhesion and the colonization of bacteria may differ between the various types of surfaces found in oral cavity. Therefore, it is conceivable that diverse biofilms are developed on those various surfaces. The aim of the study was to investigate the molecular modifications occurring during in vitro biofilm development of Streptococcus mutans UA159 on several different dental surfaces.
Growth analysis of the immobilized bacterial populations generated on the different surfaces shows that the bacteria constructed a more confluent and thick biofilms on a hydroxyapatite surface compared to the other tested surfaces. Using DNA-microarray technology we identified the differentially expressed genes of S. mutans, reflecting the physiological state of biofilms formed on the different biomaterials tested. Eight selected genes were further analyzed by real time RT-PCR. To further determine the impact of the tested material surfaces on the physiology of the bacteria, we tested the secretion of AI-2 signal by S. mutans embedded on those biofilms. Comparative transcriptome analyses indicated on changes in the S. mutans genome in biofilms formed onto different types of surfaces and enabled us to identify genes most differentially expressed on those surfaces. In addition, the levels of autoinducer-2 in biofilms from the various tested surfaces were different.
Our results demonstrate that gene expression of S. mutans differs in biofilms formed on tested surfaces, which manifest the physiological state of bacteria influenced by the type of surface material they accumulate onto. Moreover, the stressful circumstances of adjustment to the surface may persist in the bacteria enhancing intercellular signaling and surface dependent biofilm formation.
The combination of sucrose and starch in the presence of surface-adsorbed salivary α-amylase and bacterial glucosyltransferases increase the formation of a structurally and metabolically distinctive biofilm by Streptococcus mutans. This host-pathogen-diet interaction may modulate the formation of pathogenic biofilms related to dental caries disease. We conducted a comprehensive study to further investigate the influence of the dietary carbohydrates on S. mutans-transcriptome at distinct stages of biofilm development using whole genomic profiling with a new computational tool (MDV) for data mining. S. mutans UA159 biofilms were formed on amylase-active saliva coated hydroxyapatite discs in the presence of various concentrations of sucrose alone (ranging from 0.25 to 5% w/v) or in combination with starch (0.5 to 1% w/v). Overall, the presence of sucrose and starch (suc+st) influenced the dynamics of S. mutans transcriptome (vs. sucrose alone), which may be associated with gradual digestion of starch by surface-adsorbed amylase. At 21 h of biofilm formation, most of the differentially expressed genes were related to sugar metabolism, such as upregulation of genes involved in maltose/maltotriose uptake and glycogen synthesis. In addition, the groEL/groES chaperones were induced in the suc+st-biofilm, indicating that presence of starch hydrolysates may cause environmental stress. In contrast, at 30 h of biofilm development, multiple genes associated with sugar uptake/transport (e.g. maltose), two-component systems, fermentation/glycolysis and iron transport were differentially expressed in suc+st-biofilms (vs. sucrose-biofilms). Interestingly, lytT (bacteria autolysis) was upregulated, which was correlated with presence of extracellular DNA in the matrix of suc+st-biofilms. Specific genes related to carbohydrate uptake and glycogen metabolism were detected in suc+st-biofilms in more than one time point, indicating an association between presence of starch hydrolysates and intracellular polysaccharide storage. Our data show complex remodeling of S. mutans-transcriptome in response to changing environmental conditions in situ, which could modulate the dynamics of biofilm development and pathogenicity.
Streptococcus mutans is a biofilm-forming bacterium that is adapted to tolerate rapid and dramatic fluctuations in nutrient availability, carbohydrate source, and pH in its natural environment, the human oral cavity. Dissecting the pathways used to form stable biofilms and to tolerate environmental stress is central to understanding the virulence of this organism. Here, we investigated the role of the S. mutans relA gene, which codes for a guanosine tetraphosphate and guanosine pentaphosphate [(p)ppGpp] synthetase/hydrolase, in biofilm formation and acid tolerance. Two mutants in which relA was insertionally inactivated or replaced by an antibiotic resistance determinant were constructed. Under normal growth and stress conditions, the mutants grew slower than the wild-type strain, although the final yields were similar. The mutants, which were still able to accumulate (p)ppGpp after the induction of a stringent response, showed significant reductions in biofilm formation on microtiter plates or hydroxylapatite disks. There was no difference in the sensitivities to acid killing of the parent and relA strains grown in planktonic cultures. However, when cells were grown in biofilms, the mutants became more acid resistant and could lower the pH through glycolysis faster and to a greater extent than the wild-type strain. Differences in acid resistance were not correlated with increases in F-ATPase activity, although bacterial sugar:phosphotransferase activity was elevated in the mutants. Expression of the luxS gene was increased as much as fivefold in the relA mutants, suggesting a link between AI-2 quorum sensing and the stringent response.
Streptococcus mutans, the major pathogen responsible for dental caries in humans, is a biofilm-forming bacterium. In the present study, 17 different pulsed-field gel electrophoresis patterns of genomic DNA were identified in S. mutans organisms isolated clinically from whole saliva. The S. mutans isolates showed different abilities to form biofilms on polystyrene surfaces in semidefined minimal medium cultures. Following cultivation in a flow cell system in tryptic soy broth with 0.25% sucrose and staining using a BacLight LIVE/DEAD system, two strains, designated FSC-3 and FSC-4, showed the greatest and least, respectively, levels of biofilm formation when examined with confocal laser scanning microscopy. Further, image analyses of spatial distribution and architecture were performed to quantify the merged green (live cells) and red (dead cells) light. The light intensity of the FSC-3 biofilm was greater than that of the FSC-4 biofilm in the bottom area but not in the top area. S. mutans whole-genome array results showed that approximately 3.8% of the genes were differentially expressed in the two strains, of which approximately 2.2%, including bacitracin transport ATP-binding protein gene glrA and a BLpL-like putative immunity protein gene, were activated in FSC-3. In addition, about 1.6% of the genes, including those associated with phosphotransferase system genes, were repressed. Analyses of the glrA-deficient strains and reverse transcription-PCR confirmed the role of the gene in biofilm formation. Differential assessment of biofilm-associated genes in clinical strains may provide useful information for understanding the morphological development of streptococcal biofilm, as well as for colonization of S. mutans.
The abilities of Streptococcus mutans to form biofilms and to survive acidic pH are regarded as two important virulence determinants in the pathogenesis of dental caries. Environmental stimuli are thought to regulate the expression of several genes associated with virulence factors through the activity of two-component signal transduction systems. Yet, little is known of the involvement of these systems in the physiology and pathogenicity of S. mutans. In this study, we describe a two-component regulatory system and its involvement in biofilm formation and acid resistance in S. mutans. By searching the S. mutans genome database with tblastn with the HK03 and RR03 protein sequences from S. pneumoniae as queries, we identified two genes, designated hk11 and rr11, that encode a putative histidine kinase and its cognate response regulator. To gain insight into their function, a PCR-mediated allelic-exchange mutagenesis strategy was used to create the hk11 (Emr) and rr11 (Emr) deletion mutants from S. mutans wild-type NG8 named SMHK11 and SMRR11, respectively. The mutants were examined for their growth rates, genetic competence, ability to form biofilms, and resistance to low-pH challenge. The results showed that deletion of hk11 or rr11 resulted in defects in biofilm formation and resistance to acidic pH. Both mutants formed biofilms with reduced biomass (50 to 70% of the density of the parent strain). Scanning electron microscopy revealed that the biofilms formed by the mutants had sponge-like architecture with what appeared to be large gaps that resembled water channel-like structures. The mutant biofilms were composed of longer chains of cells than those of the parent biofilm. Deletion of hk11 also resulted in greatly diminished resistance to low pH, although we did not observe the same effect when rr11 was deleted. Genetic competence was not affected in either mutant. The results suggested that the gene product of hk11 in S. mutans might act as a pH sensor that could cross talk with one or more response regulators. We conclude that the two-component signal transduction system encoded by hk11 and rr11 represents a new regulatory system involved in biofilm formation and acid resistance in S. mutans.
The oral cavity is colonized by microorganisms growing in biofilms in which interspecies interactions take place. Streptococcus mutans grows in biofilms on enamel surfaces and is considered one of the main etiological agents of human dental caries. Candida albicans is also commonly found in the human oral cavity, where it interacts with S. mutans. C. albicans is a polymorphic fungus, and the yeast-to-hypha transition is involved in virulence and biofilm formation. The aim of this study was to investigate interkingdom communication between C. albicans and S. mutans based on the production of secreted molecules. S. mutans UA159 inhibited C. albicans germ tube (GT) formation in cocultures even when physically separated from C. albicans. Only S. mutans spent medium collected in the early exponential phase (4-h-old cultures) inhibited the GT formation of C. albicans. During this phase, S. mutans UA159 produces a quorum-sensing molecule, competence-stimulating peptide (CSP). The role of CSP in inhibiting GT formation was confirmed by using synthetic CSP and a comC deletion strain of S. mutans UA159, which lacks the ability to produce CSP. Other S. mutans strains and other Streptococcus spp. also inhibited GT formation but to different extents, possibly reflecting differences in CSP amino acid sequences among Streptococcus spp. or differences in CSP accumulation in the media. In conclusion, CSP, an S. mutans quorum-sensing molecule secreted during the early stages of growth, inhibits the C. albicans morphological switch.
Streptococcus mutans is a key contributor to the formation of the extracellular polysaccharide (EPS) matrix in dental biofilms. The exopolysaccharides, which are mostly glucans synthesized by streptococcal glucosyltransferases (Gtfs), provide binding sites that promote accumulation of microorganisms on the tooth surface and further establishment of pathogenic biofilms. This study explored (i) the role of S. mutans Gtfs in the development of the EPS matrix and microcolonies in biofilms, (ii) the influence of exopolysaccharides on formation of microcolonies, and (iii) establishment of S. mutans in a multispecies biofilm in vitro using a novel fluorescence labeling technique. Our data show that the ability of S. mutans strains defective in the gtfB gene or the gtfB and gtfC genes to form microcolonies on saliva-coated hydroxyapatite surfaces was markedly disrupted. However, deletion of both gtfB (associated with insoluble glucan synthesis) and gtfC (associated with insoluble and soluble glucan synthesis) is required for the maximum reduction in EPS matrix and biofilm formation. S. mutans grown with sucrose in the presence of Streptococcus oralis and Actinomyces naeslundii steadily formed exopolysaccharides, which allowed the initial clustering of bacterial cells and further development into highly structured microcolonies. Concomitantly, S. mutans became the major species in the mature biofilm. Neither the EPS matrix nor microcolonies were formed in the presence of glucose in the multispecies biofilm. Our data show that GtfB and GtfC are essential for establishment of the EPS matrix, but GtfB appears to be responsible for formation of microcolonies by S. mutans; these Gtf-mediated processes may enhance the competitiveness of S. mutans in the multispecies environment in biofilms on tooth surfaces.
Streptococcus mutans is a major cariogenic bacterium. It has adapted to the biofilm lifestyle, which is essential for pathogenesis of dental caries. We aimed to identify small molecules that can inhibit cariogenic S. mutans and to discover lead structures that could give rise to therapeutics for dental caries. In this study, we screened a focused small-molecule library of 506 compounds. Eight small molecules which inhibited S. mutans at a concentration of 4 μM or less but did not affect cell growth or biofilm formation of commensal bacteria, represented by Streptococcus sanguinis and Streptococcus gordonii, in monospecies biofilms were identified. The active compounds share similar structural properties, which are characterized by a 2-aminoimidazole (2-AI) or 2-aminobenzimidazole (2-ABI) subunit. In multispecies biofilm models, the most active compound also inhibited cell survival and biofilm formation of S. mutans but did not affect commensal streptococci. This inhibitor downregulated the expression of six biofilm-associated genes, ftf, pac, relA, comDE, gbpB, and gtfB, in planktonic S. mutans cells, while it downregulated the expression of only ftf, pac, and relA in the biofilm cells of S. mutans. The most potent compound also inhibited production of two key adhesins of S. mutans, antigen I/II and glucosyltransferase (GTF). However, the compound did not alter the expression of the corresponding genes in both S. sanguinis and S. gordonii, indicating that it possesses a selective inhibitory activity against S. mutans.
Microbial cell-cell interactions in the oral flora are believed to play an integral role in the development of dental plaque and ultimately, its pathogenicity. The effects of other species of oral bacteria on biofilm formation and virulence gene expression by Streptococcus mutans, the primary etiologic agent of dental caries, were evaluated using a dual-species biofilm model and RealTime-PCR analysis.
As compared to mono-species biofilms, biofilm formation by S. mutans was significantly decreased when grown with Streptococcus sanguinis, but was modestly increased when co-cultivated with Lactobacillus casei. Co-cultivation with S. mutans significantly enhanced biofilm formation by Streptococcus oralis and L. casei, as compared to the respective mono-species biofilms. RealTime-PCR analysis showed that expression of spaP (for multi-functional adhesin SpaP, a surface-associated protein that S. mutans uses to bind to the tooth surface in the absence of sucrose), gtfB (for glucosyltransferase B that synthesizes α1,6-linked glucan polymers from sucrose and starch carbohydrates) and gbpB (for surface-associated protein GbpB, which binds to the glucan polymers) was decreased significantly when S. mutans were co-cultivated with L. casei. Similar results were also found with expression of spaP and gbpB, but not gtfB, when S. mutans was grown in biofilms with S. oralis. Compared to mono-species biofilms, the expression of luxS in S. mutans co-cultivated with S. oralis or L. casei was also significantly decreased. No significant differences were observed in expression of the selected genes when S. mutans was co-cultivated with S. sanguinis.
These results suggest that the presence of specific oral bacteria differentially affects biofilm formation and virulence gene expression by S. mutans.
To identify the genes regulated by RR11, the regulator of the Streptococcus mutans HK/RR11 two-component system.
Methods and Results
The S. mutans RR11-encoding gene was inactivated, and the effects of gene disruption on the cell's ability to form biofilms under stresses and acquire extracellular DNA were tested. Biofilm was reduced in cells lacking RR11 following exposure to oxidative stress. RR11-defective cells showed approx. 20-fold reduction in transformation efficiency. Microarray used to decipher the RR11-regulated genes in biofilm showed that approx. 5% of the UA159 genome underwent a significant change in expression. RR11 was found to regulate 174 genes, including genes involved in competence, stress-response and cell division.
Target genes controlled by RR11during biofilm growth have been identified by a comparison of transcriptional profiles between an RR11 defective mutant and the parental strain. The results demonstrated that RR11 is involved in the control of diverse cellular processes, including the formation of biofilm under oxidative stress and development of genetic competence.
Significance and Impact of the Study
The regulator of HK/RR11 system controls a large regulon and is an important regulator involved in stress response during S. mutans biofilm growth enabling the survival and persistence of its progeny in the microbial community.
biofilm; competence; DNA microarray; stress response; two-component system
The biofilm-forming Streptococcus mutans is a gram-positive bacterium that resides in the human oral cavity and is considered to be the primary etiological agent in the formation of dental caries. The global response regulator CovR, which lacks a cognate sensor kinase, is essential for the pathogenesis and biofilm formation of this bacterium, but it is not clear how covR expression is regulated in S. mutans. In this communication, we present the results of our studies examining various factors that regulate the expression of covR in S. mutans UA159. The results of Southern hybridization and PCR analysis indicated that CovR is an orphan response regulator in various isolates of S. mutans. The transcriptional start site for covR was found to be 221 base pairs upstream of the ATG start codon, and site-directed mutagenesis of the upstream TATAAT box confirmed our findings. The expression of covR is growth phase dependent, with maximal expression observed during exponential-growth phase. While changes to the growth temperature did not significantly affect the expression of covR, increasing the pH or the concentration of Mg2+ in the growth medium leads to an increase in covR expression. The results of semiquantitative reverse transcriptase PCR analysis and in vivo transcriptional-fusion reporter assays indicated that CovR autoregulates its own expression; this was verified by the results of electrophoretic mobility shift assays and DNase I protection assays, which demonstrated direct binding of CovR to the promoter region. Apparently, regulation by Mg2+ and the autoregulation of covR are not linked. A detailed analysis of the regulation of CovR may lead to a better understanding of the pathogenesis of S. mutans, as well as providing further insight into the prevention of dental caries.
Biofilm formation by Streptococcus mutans is considered as its principal virulence factor, causing dental caries. Mutants of S. mutans defective in biofilm
formation were generated and analyzed to study the collective role of proteins in its formation. Mutants were characterized on the basis of adherence to
saliva-coated surface, and biofilm formation. The confocal laser microscopy and scanning electron microscopy images showed that the control biofilms
had cluster of cells covered by layer of exo-polysaccharide while the biofilms of mutants were thin and spaced. Two-dimensional protein electrophoresis
data analysis identified 57 proteins that are either up (44 proteins) or down (13 proteins) regulated. These data points to the importance of up and down
regulated proteins in the formation of biofilm in Streptococcus mutans.
Autoinducer 2 (AI-2) is the only species-nonspecific autoinducer known in bacteria and is produced by both gram-negative and gram-positive organisms. Consequently, it is proposed to function as a universal quorum-sensing signal for interaction between bacterial species. AI-2 is produced as the by-product of a metabolic transformation carried out by the LuxS enzyme. To separate the metabolic function of the LuxS enzyme from the signaling role of AI-2, we carried out a global transcriptome analysis of a luxS null mutant culture of Streptococcus mutans UA159, an important cariogenic bacterium and a crucial component of the dental plaque biofilm community, in comparison to a luxS null mutant culture supplemented with chemically pure 4,5-dihydroxy-2,3-pentanedione, the precursor of AI-2. The data revealed fundamental changes in gene expression affecting 585 genes (30% of the genome) which could not be restored by the signal molecule AI-2 and are therefore not caused by quorum sensing but by lack of the transformation carried out by the LuxS enzyme in the activated methyl cycle. All functional classes of enzymes were affected, including genes known to be important for biofilm formation, bacteriocin synthesis, competence, and acid tolerance. At the same time, 59 genes were identified whose transcription clearly responded to the addition of AI-2. Some of them were related to protein synthesis, stress, and cell division. Three membrane transport proteins were upregulated which are not related to any of the known AI-2 transporters. Three transcription factors were identified whose transcription was stimulated repeatedly by AI-2 addition during growth. Finally, a global regulatory protein, the δ subunit of the RNA polymerase (rpoE), was induced 147-fold by AI-2, representing the largest differential gene expression observed. The data show that many phenotypes related to the luxS mutation cannot be ascribed to quorum sensing and have identified for the first time regulatory proteins potentially mediating AI-2-based signaling in gram-positive bacteria.
Maintaining cell envelope integrity is critical for bacterial survival, including bacteria living in a complex and dynamic environment such as the human oral cavity. Streptococcus mutans, a major etiological agent of dental caries, uses two-component signal transduction systems (TCSTSs) to monitor and respond to various environmental stimuli. Previous studies have shown that the LiaSR TCSTS in S. mutans regulates virulence traits such as acid tolerance and biofilm formation. Although not examined in streptococci, homologs of LiaSR are widely disseminated in Firmicutes and function as part of the cell envelope stress response network. We describe here liaSR and its upstream liaF gene in the cell envelope stress tolerance of S. mutans strain UA159. Transcriptional analysis established liaSR as part of the pentacistronic liaFSR-ppiB-pnpB operon. A survey of cell envelope antimicrobials revealed that mutants deficient in one or all of the liaFSR genes were susceptible to Lipid II cycle interfering antibiotics and to chemicals that perturbed the cell membrane integrity. These compounds induced liaR transcription in a concentration-dependent manner. Notably, under bacitracin stress conditions, the LiaFSR signaling system was shown to induce transcription of several genes involved in membrane protein synthesis, peptidoglycan biosynthesis, envelope chaperone/proteases, and transcriptional regulators. In the absence of an inducer such as bacitracin, LiaF repressed LiaR-regulated expression, whereas supplementing cultures with bacitracin resulted in derepression of liaSR. While LiaF appears to be an integral component of the LiaSR signaling cascade, taken collectively, we report a novel role for LiaFSR in sensing cell envelope stress and preserving envelope integrity in S. mutans.