Interactions between salivary agglutinin and the adhesin P1 of Streptococcus mutans contribute to bacterial aggregation and mediate sucrose-independent adherence to tooth surfaces. We have examined biofilm formation by S. mutans UA159, and derivative strains carrying mutations affecting the localization or expression of P1, in the presence of fluid-phase or adsorbed saliva or salivary agglutinin preparations. Whole saliva- and salivary agglutinin-induced aggregation of S. mutans was adversely affected by the loss of P1 and sortase (SrtA) but not by the loss of trigger factor (RopA). Fluid-phase salivary agglutinin and, to a lesser extent, immobilized agglutinin inhibited biofilm development by S. mutans in the absence of sucrose, and whole saliva was more effective at decreasing biofilm formation than salivary agglutinin. Inhibition of biofilm development by salivary agglutinin was differently influenced by particular mutations, with the P1-deficient strain displaying a greater inhibition of biofilm development than the SrtA- or RopA-deficient strains. As expected, biofilm-forming capacities of all strains in the presence of salivary preparations were markedly enhanced in the presence of sucrose, although biofilm formation by the mutants was less efficient than that by the parental strain. Aeration strongly inhibited biofilm development, and the presence of salivary components did not restore biofilm formation in aerated conditions. The results disclose a potent ability of salivary constituents to moderate biofilm formation by S. mutans through P1-dependent and P1-independent pathways.
Metal ion availability in the human oral cavity plays a putative role in Streptococcus mutans virulence gene expression and in appropriate formation of the plaque biofilm. In this report, we present evidence that supports such a role for the DtxR-like SloR metalloregulator (called Dlg in our previous publications) in this oral pathogen. Specifically, the results of gel mobility shift assays revealed the sloABC, sloR, comDE, ropA, sod, and spaP promoters as targets of SloR binding. We confirmed differential expression of these genes in a GMS584 SloR-deficient mutant versus the UA159 wild-type progenitor by real-time semiquantitative reverse transcriptase PCR experiments. The results of additional expression studies support a role for SloR in S. mutans control of glucosyltransferases, glucan binding proteins, and genes relevant to antibiotic resistance. Phenotypic analysis of GMS584 revealed that it forms aberrant biofilms on an abiotic surface, is compromised for genetic competence, and demonstrates heightened incorporation of iron and manganese as well as resistance to oxidative stress compared to the wild type. Taken together, these findings support a role for SloR in S. mutans adherence, biofilm formation, genetic competence, metal ion homeostasis, oxidative stress tolerance, and antibiotic gene regulation, all of which contribute to S. mutans-induced disease.
ropA encodes a 36-kDa outer membrane protein of Rhizobium leguminosarum bv. viciae strain 248 which constitutes the low-M(r) part of antigen group III (R.A. de Maagd, I.H.M. Mulders, H.C.J. Canter Cremers, B.J.J. Lugtenberg, J. Bacteriol. 174:214-221, 1992). We observed that genes homologous to ropA are present in strain 248 as well as in other R. leguminosarum strains, and we describe the cloning and characterization of two of these genes. Sequencing of a 2.2-kb Bg/II fragment from R. leguminosarum bv. viciae strain 248 that hybridizes with ropA revealed one large open reading frame of 1,074 bp encoding a mature protein of 38.096 kDa. Homology between this gene and ropA is 91.8% on the DNA level. Homology on the amino acid level is only 69.9% as a result of a frameshift. On the basis of homology and immunochemical characteristics, we conclude that this gene encodes the high-M(r) part of the outer membrane protein antigen group III that is repressed during symbiosis. We named this gene ropA2. The second gene that we cloned was the ropA homologous gene of R. leguminosarum bv. trifolii strain LPR5020. Except for amino acid 43, the N-terminal part of the corresponding protein appeared to be identical to the first 51 amino acids of RopA of strain 248. The transcription start sites of both genes were determined, and the promoter regions were compared with that of ropA of strain 248. No clear consensus sequence could be deduced. The relationship of ropA and ropA2 of R. leguminosarum bv. viciae strain 248 with two similar genes from Brucella abortus is discussed.
Trigger factor, a ribosome-associated chaperone and peptidyl-prolyl cis-trans isomerase (PPIase), is essential for the secretion and maturation of the cysteine protease of the pathogenic gram-positive bacterium Streptococcus pyogenes. In the absence of trigger factor, the nascent protease polypeptide is not targeted to the secretory pathway. Some partial-function mutations restore targeting. However, the secreted protease does not efficiently mature into an enzymatically active form, suggesting that trigger factor has an additional role in protease biogenesis. Here, we show that, while not required for targeting, the PPIase activity of trigger factor is essential for maturation of the protease following its secretion from the bacterial cell. Site-specific mutations introduced into ropA, the gene which encodes trigger factor in S. pyogenes, produced mutant proteins deficient in PPIase activity. When these mutant alleles were used to replace the wild-type gene on the streptococcal chromosome, analysis of protease biogenesis revealed that, although the protease was secreted normally, it did not efficiently mature to an active form. Furthermore, mutation of a single proline residue in the protease prodomain suppressed the requirement for PPIase activity, suggesting that this residue is the target of trigger factor. These data support a model in which trigger factor-mediated prolyl isomerization influences the conformation of the prodomain, which in turn directs the protease into one of several alternative folding pathways.
Streptococcus mutans normally colonizes dental biofilms and is regularly exposed to continual cycles of acidic pH during ingestion of fermentable dietary carbohydrates. The ability of S. mutans to survive at low pH is an important virulence factor in the pathogenesis of dental caries. Despite a few studies of the acid adaptation mechanism of this organism, little work has focused on the acid tolerance of S. mutans growing in high-cell-density biofilms. It is unknown whether biofilm growth mode or high cell density affects acid adaptation by S. mutans. This study was initiated to examine the acid tolerance response (ATR) of S. mutans biofilm cells and to determine the effect of cell density on the induction of acid adaptation. S. mutans BM71 cells were first grown in broth cultures to examine acid adaptation associated with growth phase, cell density, carbon starvation, and induction by culture filtrates. The cells were also grown in a chemostat-based biofilm fermentor for biofilm formation. Adaptation of biofilm cells to low pH was established in the chemostat by the acid generated from excess glucose metabolism, followed by a pH 3.5 acid shock for 3 h. Both biofilm and planktonic cells were removed to assay percentages of survival. The results showed that S. mutans BM71 exhibited a log-phase ATR induced by low pH and a stationary-phase acid resistance induced by carbon starvation. Cell density was found to modulate acid adaptation in S. mutans log-phase cells, since pre-adapted cells at a higher cell density or from a dense biofilm displayed significantly higher resistance to the killing pH than the cells at a lower cell density. The log-phase ATR could also be induced by a neutralized culture filtrate collected from a low-pH culture, suggesting that the culture filtrate contained an extracellular induction component(s) involved in acid adaptation in S. mutans. Heat or proteinase treatment abolished the induction by the culture filtrate. The results also showed that mutants defective in the comC, -D, or -E genes, which encode a quorum sensing system essential for cell density-dependent induction of genetic competence, had a diminished log-phase ATR. Addition of synthetic competence stimulating peptide (CSP) to the comC mutant restored the ATR. This study demonstrated that cell density and biofilm growth mode modulated acid adaptation in S. mutans, suggesting that optimal development of acid adaptation in this organism involves both low pH induction and cell-cell communication.
Streptococcus mutans is considered one of the primary etiologic agents of dental caries. Previously, we characterized the VicRK two-component signal transduction system, which regulates multiple virulence factors of S. mutans. In this study, we focused on the vicX gene of the vicRKX tricistronic operon. To characterize vicX, we constructed a nonpolar deletion mutation in the vicX coding region in S. mutans UA159. The growth kinetics of the mutant (designated SmuvicX) showed that the doubling time was longer and that there was considerable sensitivity to paraquat-induced oxidative stress. Supplementing a culture of the wild-type UA159 strain with paraquat significantly increased the expression of vicX (P < 0.05, as determined by analysis of variance [ANOVA]), confirming the role of this gene in oxidative stress tolerance in S. mutans. Examination of mutant biofilms revealed architecturally altered cell clusters that were seemingly denser than the wild-type cell clusters. Interestingly, vicX-deficient cells grown in a glucose-supplemented medium exhibited significantly increased glucosyltransferase B/C (gtfB/C) expression compared with the expression in the wild type (P < 0.05, as determined by ANOVA). Moreover, a sucrose-dependent adhesion assay performed using an S. mutans GS5-derived vicX null mutant demonstrated that the adhesiveness of this mutant was enhanced compared with that of the parent strain and isogenic mutants of the parent strain lacking gtfB and/or gtfC. Also, disruption of vicX reduced the genetic transformability of the mutant approximately 10-fold compared with that of the parent strain (P < 0.05, as determined by ANOVA). Collectively, these findings provide insight into important phenotypes controlled by the vicX gene product that can impact S. mutans pathogenicity.
In this report, we define requirements for the successful translocation and functional maturation of the adhesin P1 of Streptococcus mutans. Conformational epitopes recognized by anti-P1 monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) were further characterized, thus facilitating the use of particular MAbs as tools to monitor the locations of various forms of the protein. We show that correct localization of P1 is dependent on structural features of the molecule itself, including a requisite A region-P region intramolecular interaction that occurs within the cell prior to secretion. P1 also was shown to be affected by several members of the protein-folding-secretion-turnover apparatus. It does not achieve a fully functional form in the absence of the trigger factor PPIase homolog RopA, and its translocation is delayed when DnaK levels are limited. In addition, dnaK message levels are differentially altered in the presence of P1 lacking the alanine-rich compared to the proline-rich repeat domains. Lastly, nonsecreted P1 lacking the P region accumulates within the cell in the absence of htrA, implying an intracellular HtrA protease function in the degradation and turnover of this particular internal-deletion polypeptide. However, the opposite effect is seen for full-length P1, suggesting a sensing mechanism and substrate-dependent alteration in HtrA's function and effect that is consistent with its known ability to switch between chaperone and protease, depending on environmental perturbations.
The ROP16 kinase of Toxoplasma gondii is injected into the host cell cytosol where it activates signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT)-3 and STAT6. Here, we generated a ROP16 deletion mutant on a Type I parasite strain background, as well as a control complementation mutant with restored ROP16 expression. We investigated the biological role of the ROP16 molecule during T. gondii infection. Infection of mouse bone marrow-derived macrophages with rop16-deleted (ΔROP16) parasites resulted in increased amounts of IL-12p40 production relative to the ROP16-positive RH parental strain. High level IL-12p40 production in ΔROP16 infection was dependent on the host cell adaptor molecule MyD88, but surprisingly was independent of any previously recognized T. gondii triggered pathway linking to MyD88 (TLR2, TLR4, TLR9, TLR11, IL-1ß and IL-18). In addition, ROP16 was found to mediate the suppressive effects of Toxoplasma on LPS-induced cytokine synthesis in macrophages and on IFN-γ-induced nitric oxide production by astrocytes and microglial cells. Furthermore, ROP16 triggered synthesis of host cell arginase-1 in a STAT6-dependent manner. In fibroblasts and macrophages, failure to induce arginase-1 by ΔROP16 tachyzoites resulted in resistance to starvation conditions of limiting arginine, an essential amino acid for replication and virulence of this parasite. ΔROP16 tachyzoites that failed to induce host cell arginase-1 displayed increased replication and dissemination during in vivo infection. We conclude that encounter between Toxoplasma ROP16 and the host cell STAT signaling cascade has pleiotropic downstream effects that act in multiple and complex ways to direct the course of infection.
Toxoplasma gondii is an extremely widespread intracellular protozoan parasite that establishes long-lasting infection in humans and animals. Because Toxoplasma infection is most often asymptomatic, it is evident that this parasite has developed sophisticated ways to manipulate host immunity. Recently, the parasite ROP16 kinase was identified as an important determinant of host cell signaling. During cell invasion, ROP16 is injected into the host cell cytoplasm and subsequently localizes to the nucleus. Here, we report the generation of ROP16 knockout parasites (ΔROP16) as well as ΔROP16 complementation mutants (ΔROP16:1) and we describe the biological effects of deleting and re-inserting this molecule. We find that ROP16 controls the ability to activate multiple host cell signaling pathways and simultaneously suppress macrophage proinflammatory responses. Deletion of ROP16 increases parasite ability to replicate and disseminate during in vivo infection. This increased growth response may arise from ROP16-dependent activation of host arginase-1. Induction of arginase-1 limits availability of arginine, an amino acid that is required for parasite growth and host-inducible nitric oxide production. Our results provide new insight into the complex interactions between an intracellular eukaryotic pathogen and its host cell.
We describe the cloning of a gene from Rhizobium leguminosarum biovar viciae strain 248 encoding protein IIIa, the 36-kDa outer membrane protein forming a part of the outer membrane protein antigen group III. The expression of this antigen group is repressed in the bacteroid form during symbiosis (R. A. de Maagd, R. de Rijk, I. H. M. Mulders, and B. J. J. Lugtenberg, J. Bacteriol. 171:1136-1142, 1989). A cosmid clone expressing the strain 248-specific MAb38 epitope of this antigen group in a nonrelated strain was selected by a colony blot assay. Sequencing revealed one large open reading frame encoding a 39-kDa protein. N-terminal amino acid sequencing of the purified 36-kDa outer membrane protein IIIa revealed that the isolated gene, now designated ropA, is the structural gene for this protein and that the mature protein was formed by processing of the 22-residue N-terminal signal sequence. The gene is preceded by a promoter that was active in R. leguminosarum but not in Escherichia coli. This promoter, which showed no homology to known promoter sequences, was located approximately by determination of the transcription start site. The region upstream of the putative promoter was shown to contain two potential binding sites for integration host factor protein. Expression of protein IIIa under control of the inducible lac promoter in E. coli shows that, of its earlier described properties, the peptidoglycan linkage of protein IIIa is specific for R. leguminosarum but that outer membrane localization and calcium-stabilized oligomer formation can to a large extent also occur in E. coli.
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.
Streptococcus mutans, the primary causative agent of dental caries, contains two paralogues of the LytR-CpsA-Psr family proteins encoded by brpA and psr, respectively. Previous studies have shown that BrpA plays an important role in cell envelope biogenesis/homeostasis and affects stress responses and biofilm formation by Strep. mutans, traits critical to cariogenicity of this bacterium. In this study, a Psr-deficient mutant, TW251, was constructed. Characterization of TW251 showed that deficiency of Psr did not have any major impact on growth rate. However, when subjected to acid killing at pH 2.8, the survival rate of TW251 was decreased dramatically compared with the parent strain UA159. In addition, TW251 also displayed major defects in biofilm formation, especially during growth with sucrose. When compared to UA159, the biofilms of TW251 were mainly planar and devoid of extracellular glucans. Real-time-PCR and Western blot analyses revealed that deficiency of Psr significantly decreased the expression of glucosyltransferase C, a protein known to play a major role in biofilm formation by Strep. mutans. Transmission electron microscopy analysis showed that deficiency of BrpA caused alterations in cell envelope and cell division, and the most significant defects were observed in TW314, a Psr-deficient and BrpA-down mutant. No such effects were observed with Psr mutant TW251 under similar conditions. These results suggest that while there are similarities in functions between BrpA and Psr, distinctive differences also exist between these two paralogues. Like Bacillus subtilis but different from Staphylococcus aureus, a functional BrpA or Psr is required for viability in Strep. mutans.
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.
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.
The symbiotic nitrogen-fixing bacterium Sinorhizobium meliloti harbors a gene, SMc02396, which encodes a predicted outer membrane porin that is conserved in many symbiotic and pathogenic bacteria in the order Rhizobiales. Here, this gene (renamed ropA1) is shown to be required for infection by two commonly utilized transducing bacteriophages (ΦM12 and N3). Mapping of S. meliloti mutations conferring resistance to ΦM12, N3, or both phages simultaneously revealed diverse mutations mapping within the ropA1 open reading frame. Subsequent tests determined that RopA1, lipopolysaccharide, or both are required for infection by all of a larger collection of Sinorhizobium-specific phages. Failed attempts to disrupt or delete ropA1 suggest that this gene is essential for viability. Phylogenetic analysis reveals that ropA1 homologs in many Rhizobiales species are often found as two genetically linked copies and that the intraspecies duplicates are always more closely related to each other than to homologs in other species, suggesting multiple independent duplication events.
In the smut fungus Ustilago maydis, the pheromone signal is transmitted via a mitogen-activated protein kinase module to the high-mobility-group (HMG) domain transcription factor Prf1, leading to its activation. This triggers sexual and pathogenic development since Prf1 binds to the PRE boxes located in the promoters of the a and b mating type genes. Here, we present the characterization of rop1 and hmg3, encoding two additional sequence-specific HMG domain proteins. While hmg3 mutants are slightly impaired in mating and do form conjugation hyphae, rop1 deletion strains display a severe mating and filamentation defect and do not respond to pheromone stimulation. In particular, rop1 is essential for pheromone-induced gene expression in axenic culture. Constitutive expression of prf1 fully complements the mating defect of rop1 mutants, indicating that rop1 is required for prf1 gene expression. Indeed, we could show that Rop1 binds directly to specific elements in the prf1 promoter. Surprisingly, on the plant surface, rop1 deletion strains do form conjugation hyphae and express sufficient amounts of prf1 to cause full pathogenicity. This indicates the involvement of additional components in the regulation of prf1 gene expression during pathogenic growth.
The genetic architecture responsible for chronic kidney disease (CKD) remains incompletely described. The Oligosyndactyly (Os) mouse models focal and segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), which is associated with reduced nephron number caused by the Os mutation. The Os mutation leads to FSGS in multiple strains including the ROP-Os/+. However, on the C57Bl/6J background the mutation does not cause FSGS, although nephron number in these mice are equivalent to those in ROP-Os/+ mice. We exploited this phenotypic variation to identify genes that potentially contribute to glomerulosclerosis.
To identify such novel genes, which regulate susceptibility or resistance to renal disease progression, we generated and compared the renal transcriptomes using serial analysis of gene expression (SAGE) from the sclerosis-prone ROP-Os/+ and sclerosis resistant C57-Os/+ mouse kidneys. We confirmed the validity of the differential gene expression using multiple approaches. We also used an Ingenuity Pathway Analysis engine to assemble differentially regulated molecular networks. Cell culture techniques were employed to confirm functional relevance of selected genes.
A comparative analysis of the kidney transcriptomes revealed multiple genes, with expression levels that were statistically different. These novel, candidate, renal disease susceptibility/resistance genes included neuropilin2 (Nrp2), glutathione-S-transferase theta (Gstt1) and itchy (Itch). Of 34 genes with the most robust statistical difference in expression levels between ROP-Os/+ and C57-Os/+ mice, 13 and 3 transcripts localized to glomerular and tubulointerstitial compartments, respectively, from micro-dissected human FSGS biopsies. Network analysis of all significantly differentially expressed genes identified 13 connectivity networks. The most highly scored network highlighted the roles for oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction pathways. Functional analyses of these networks provided evidence for activation of transforming growth factor beta (TGFβ) signaling in ROP-Os/+ kidneys despite similar expression of the TGFβ ligand between the tested strains.
These data demonstrate the complex dysregulation of normal cellular functions in this animal model of FSGS and suggest that therapies directed at multiple levels will be needed to effectively treat human kidney diseases.
The Rex repressor has been implicated in regulation of central carbon and energy metabolism in Gram-positive bacteria. We have previously shown that Streptococcus mutans, the primary causative agent of dental caries, alters its transcriptome upon Rex-deficiency and renders S. mutans to have increased susceptibility to oxidative stress, aberrations in glucan production, and poor biofilm formation. In this study, we showed that rex in S. mutans is co-transcribed as an operon with downstream guaA, encoding a putative glutamine amidotransferase. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays showed that recombinant Rex bound promoters of target genes avidly and specifically, including those down-regulated in response to Rex-deficiency, and that the ability of recombinant Rex to bind to selected promoters was modulated by NADH and NAD+. Results suggest that Rex in S. mutans can function as an activator in response to intracellular NADH/NAD+ level, although the exact binding site for activator Rex remains unclear. Consistent with a role in oxidative stress tolerance, hydrogen peroxide challenge assays showed that the Rex-deficient mutant, TW239, and the Rex/GuaA double mutant, JB314, were more susceptible to hydrogen peroxide killing than the wildtype, UA159. Relative to UA159, JB314 displayed major defects in biofilm formation, with a decrease of more than 50-fold in biomass after 48-hours. Collectively, these results further suggest that Rex in S. mutans regulates fermentation pathways, oxidative stress tolerance, and biofilm formation in response to intracellular NADH/NAD+ level. Current effort is being directed to further investigation of the role of GuaA in S. mutans cellular physiology.
Virulent biofilms are responsible for a range of infections, including oral diseases. All biofilms harbor a microbial-derived extracellular-matrix. The exopolysaccharides (EPS) formed on tooth-pellicle and bacterial surfaces provide binding sites for microorganisms; eventually the accumulated EPS enmeshes microbial cells. The metabolic activity of the bacteria within this matrix leads to acidification of the milieu. We explored the mechanisms through which the Streptococcus mutans-produced EPS-matrix modulates the three-dimensional (3D) architecture and the population shifts during morphogenesis of biofilms on a saliva-coated-apatitic surface using a mixed-bacterial species system. Concomitantly, we examined whether the matrix influences the development of pH-microenvironments within intact-biofilms using a novel 3D in situ pH-mapping technique. Data reveal that the production of the EPS-matrix helps to create spatial heterogeneities by forming an intricate network of exopolysaccharide-enmeshed bacterial-islets (microcolonies) through localized cell-to-matrix interactions. This complex 3D architecture creates compartmentalized acidic and EPS-rich microenvironments throughout the biofilm, which triggers the dominance of pathogenic S. mutans within a mixed-species system. The establishment of a 3D-matrix and EPS-enmeshed microcolonies were largely mediated by the S. mutans gtfB/gtfC genes, expression of which was enhanced in the presence of Actinomyces naeslundii and Streptococcus oralis. Acidic pockets were found only in the interiors of bacterial-islets that are protected by EPS, which impedes rapid neutralization by buffer (pH 7.0). As a result, regions of low pH (<5.5) were detected at specific locations along the surface of attachment. Resistance to chlorhexidine was enhanced in cells within EPS-microcolony complexes compared to those outside such structures within the biofilm. Our results illustrate the critical interaction between matrix architecture and pH heterogeneity in the 3D environment. The formation of structured acidic-microenvironments in close proximity to the apatite-surface is an essential factor associated with virulence in cariogenic-biofilms. These observations may have relevance beyond the mouth, as matrix is inherent to all biofilms.
Virulent biofilms formed on surfaces are associated with many human infections. The disease dental caries, expressed as cavities, is a prime example of the consequences arising from interactions between bacteria and sugars on tooth-surfaces. When Streptococcus mutans metabolize sugars, they produce a glue-like polymer termed glucan, helping them to adhere firmly to teeth. Glucan is also formed on bacterial surfaces in the mouth, and will accumulate and enmesh additional microorganisms creating the gelatinous formation known as dental plaque-biofilm. We found unique islets of bacteria within these biofilms, particularly close to the tooth-surface, providing safe havens in which bacteria thrive and produce acids that erode teeth. One intriguing mystery is why acids accumulate on the tooth-surface when there is an abundance of neutral-pH saliva surrounding the teeth. We found that bacterial-islets are particularly protected by glucan, which retards neutralization. We noticed that, within biofilms, the interiors of these islets are acidic, where only acid-tolerant bacteria can prosper, ensuring continued localized acid production. Our study demonstrates that construction of biofilms mediated by glucans forms complex 3D architectures, creating a variety of acidic-microenvironments that are essential for virulence expression. These results may aid in the development of enhanced methods to modulate biofilm formation.
Streptococcus mutans is a bacterium that has evolved to be dependent upon a biofilm “lifestyle” for survival and persistence in its natural ecosystem, dental plaque. We initiated this study to identify the genes involved in the development of genetic competence in S. mutans and to assay the natural genetic transformability of biofilm-grown cells. Using genomic analyses, we identified a quorum-sensing peptide pheromone signaling system similar to those previously found in other streptococci. The genetic locus of this system comprises three genes, comC, comD, and comE, that encode a precursor to the peptide competence factor, a histidine kinase, and a response regulator, respectively. We deduced the sequence of comC and its active pheromone product and chemically synthesized the corresponding 21-amino-acid competence-stimulating peptide (CSP). Addition of CSP to noncompetent cells facilitated increased transformation frequencies, with typically 1% of the total cell population transformed. To further confirm the roles of these genes in genetic competence, we inactivated them by insertion-duplication mutagenesis or allelic replacement followed by assays of transformation efficiency. We also demonstrated that biofilm-grown S. mutans cells were transformed at a rate 10- to 600-fold higher than planktonic S. mutans cells. Donor DNA included a suicide plasmid, S. mutans chromosomal DNA harboring a heterologous erythromycin resistance gene, and a replicative plasmid. The cells were optimally transformed during the formation of 8- to 16-h-old biofilms primarily consisting of microcolonies on solid surfaces. We also found that dead cells in the biofilms could act as donors of a chromosomally encoded antibiotic resistance determinant. This work demonstrated that a peptide pheromone system controls genetic competence in S. mutans and that the system functions optimally when the cells are living in actively growing biofilms.
Streptococcus mutans, a major etiological agent of human dental caries, lives primarily on the tooth surface in biofilms. Limited information is available concerning the extracellular DNA (eDNA) as a scaffolding matrix in S. mutans biofilms. This study demonstrates that S. mutans produces eDNA by multiple avenues, including lysis-independent membrane vesicles. Unlike eDNAs from cell lysis that were abundant and mainly concentrated around broken cells or cell debris with floating open ends, eDNAs produced via the lysis-independent pathway appeared scattered but in a structured network under scanning electron microscopy. Compared to eDNA production of planktonic cultures, eDNA production in 5- and 24-h biofilms was increased by >3- and >1.6-fold, respectively. The addition of DNase I to growth medium significantly reduced biofilm formation. In an in vitro adherence assay, added chromosomal DNA alone had a limited effect on S. mutans adherence to saliva-coated hydroxylapatite beads, but in conjunction with glucans synthesized using purified glucosyltransferase B, the adherence was significantly enhanced. Deletion of sortase A, the transpeptidase that covalently couples multiple surface-associated proteins to the cell wall peptidoglycan, significantly reduced eDNA in both planktonic and biofilm cultures. Sortase A deficiency did not have a significant effect on membrane vesicle production; however, the protein profile of the mutant membrane vesicles was significantly altered, including reduction of adhesin P1 and glucan-binding proteins B and C. Relative to the wild type, deficiency of protein secretion and membrane protein insertion machinery components, including Ffh, YidC1, and YidC2, also caused significant reductions in eDNA.
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.
The transcriptional repressor Rex has been implicated in regulation of energy metabolism and fermentative growth in response to redox potential. Streptococcus mutans, the primary causative agent of human dental caries, possesses a gene that encodes a protein with high similarity to members of the Rex family of proteins. In this study, we showed that Rex-deficiency compromised the ability of S. mutans to cope with oxidative stress and to form biofilms. The Rex-deficient mutant also accumulated less biofilm after 3-days than the wild-type strain, especially when grown in sucrose-containing medium, but produced more extracellular glucans than the parental strain. Rex-deficiency caused substantial alterations in gene transcription, including those involved in heterofermentative metabolism, NAD+ regeneration and oxidative stress. Among the up-regulated genes was gtfC, which encodes glucosyltransferase C, an enzyme primarily responsible for synthesis of water-insoluble glucans. These results reveal that Rex plays an important role in oxidative stress responses and biofilm formation by S. mutans.
Redox sensing; oxidative stress; biofilm formation; Streptococcus mutans
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.
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.
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.