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1.  BrpA Is Involved in Regulation of Cell Envelope Stress Responses in Streptococcus mutans 
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.
PMCID: PMC3318800  PMID: 22327589
2.  Deficiency of BrpB causes major defects in cell division, stress responses and biofilm formation by Streptococcus mutans 
Microbiology  2014;160(Pt 1):67-78.
Streptococcus mutans, the primary aetiological agent of dental caries, possesses an YjeE-like protein that is encoded by locus SMU.409, herein designated brpB. In this study, a BrpB-deficient mutant, JB409, and a double mutant deficient of BrpB and BrpA (a paralogue of the LytR–CpsA–Psr family of cell wall-associated proteins), JB819, were constructed and characterized using function assays and microscopy analysis. Both JB409 and JB819 displayed extended lag phases and drastically slowed growth rates during growth in brain heart infusion medium as compared to the wild-type, UA159. Relative to UA159, JB409 and JB819 were more than 60- and 10-fold more susceptible to acid killing at pH 2.8, and more than 1 and 2 logs more susceptible to hydrogen peroxide, respectively. Complementation of the deficient mutants with a wild-type copy of the respective gene(s) partly restored the acid and oxidative stress responses to a level similar to the wild-type. As compared to UA159, biofilm formation by JB409 and JB819 was drastically reduced (P<0.001), especially during growth in medium containing sucrose. Under a scanning electron microscope, JB409 had significantly more giant cells with an elongated, rod-like morphology, and JB819 formed marble-like super cells with apparent defects in cell division. As revealed by transmission electron microscopy analysis, BrpB deficiency in both JB409 and JB819 resulted in the development of low electron density patches and formation of a loose nucleoid structure. Taken together, these results suggest that BrpB likely functions together with BrpA in regulating cell envelope biogenesis/homeostasis in Strep. mutans. Further studies are under way to elucidate the mechanism that underlies the BrpA- and BrpB-mediated regulation.
PMCID: PMC3917225  PMID: 24190982
3.  Psr is involved in regulation of glucan production, and double deficiency of BrpA and Psr is lethal in Streptococcus mutans 
Microbiology  2013;159(Pt 3):493-506.
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.
PMCID: PMC3709821  PMID: 23288544
4.  Functional Genomics Approach to Identifying Genes Required for Biofilm Development by Streptococcus mutans 
Streptococcus mutans, the primary etiological agent of human dental caries, is an obligate biofilm-forming bacterium. The goals of this study were to identify the gene(s) required for biofilm formation by this organism and to elucidate the role(s) that some of the known global regulators of gene expression play in controlling biofilm formation. In S. mutans UA159, the brpA gene (for biofilm regulatory protein) was found to encode a novel protein of 406 amino acid residues. A strain carrying an insertionally inactivated copy of brpA formed longer chains than did the parental strain, aggregated in liquid culture, and was unable to form biofilms as shown by an in vitro biofilm assay. A putative homologue of the enzyme responsible for synthesis of autoinducer II (AI-2) of the bacterial quorum-sensing system was also identified in S. mutans UA159, but insertional inactivation of the gene (luxSSm) did not alter colony or cell morphology or diminish the capacity of S. mutans to form biofilms. We also examined the role of the homologue of the Bacillus subtilis catabolite control protein CcpA in S. mutans in biofilm formation, and the results showed that loss of CcpA resulted in about a 60% decrease in the ability to form biofilms on an abiotic surface. From these data, we conclude that CcpA and BrpA may regulate genes that are required for stable biofilm formation by S. mutans.
PMCID: PMC123778  PMID: 11872468
5.  LuxS-Mediated Signaling in Streptococcus mutans Is Involved in Regulation of Acid and Oxidative Stress Tolerance and Biofilm Formation 
Journal of Bacteriology  2004;186(9):2682-2691.
LuxS-mediated quorum sensing has recently been shown to regulate important physiologic functions and virulence in a variety of bacteria. In this study, the role of luxS of Streptococcus mutans in the regulation of traits crucial to pathogenesis was investigated. Reporter gene fusions showed that inactivation of luxS resulted in a down-regulation of fructanase, a demonstrated virulence determinant, by more than 50%. The LuxS-deficient strain (TW26) showed increased sensitivity to acid killing but could still undergo acid adaptation. Northern hybridization revealed that the expression of RecA, SmnA (AP endonuclease), and Nth (endonuclease) were down-regulated in TW26, especially in early-exponential-phase cells. Other down-regulated genes included ffh (a signal recognition particle subunit) and brpA (biofilm regulatory protein A). Interestingly, the luxS mutant showed an increase in survival rate in the presence of hydrogen peroxide (58.8 mM). The luxS mutant formed less biofilm on hydroxylapatite disks, especially when grown in biofilm medium with sucrose, and the mutant biofilms appeared loose and hive-like, whereas the biofilms of the wild type were smooth and confluent. The mutant phenotypes were complemented by exposure to supernatants from wild-type cultures. Two loci, smu486 and smu487, were identified and predicted to encode a histidine kinase and a response regulator. The phenotypes of the smu486 smu487 mutant were, in almost all cases, similar to those of the luxS mutant, although our results suggest that this is not due to AI-2 signal transduction via Smu486 and Smu487. This study demonstrates that luxS-dependent signaling plays critical roles in modulating key virulence properties of S. mutans.
PMCID: PMC387784  PMID: 15090509
6.  The Exopolysaccharide Matrix Modulates the Interaction between 3D Architecture and Virulence of a Mixed-Species Oral Biofilm 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(4):e1002623.
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.
Author Summary
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.
PMCID: PMC3320608  PMID: 22496649
7.  Kaurenoic Acid from Aralia continentalis Inhibits Biofilm Formation of Streptococcus mutans 
We isolated a single chemical compound from A. continentalis and identified it to be kaurenoic acid (KA) and investigated the influence of anticariogenic properties. Inhibitory effects of KA on cariogenic properties such as growth, acid production, biofilm formation, and the adherence of S. mutans were evaluated. Furthermore, real-time PCR analysis was performed to evaluate the influence of KA on the genetic expression of virulence factors. KA significantly inhibited the growth and acid production of S. mutans at 2–4 μg/mL and 4 μg/mL of KA, respectively. Furthermore, the adherence onto S-HAs was inhibited at 3-4 μg/mL of KA and biofilm formation was significantly inhibited when treated with 3 μg/mL KA and completely inhibited at 4 μg/mL. Also, the inhibitory effect of KA on biofilm formation was confirmed by SEM. In confocal laser scanning microscopy, bacterial viability gradually decreased by KA in a dose dependent manner. Real-time PCR analysis showed that the expressions of gtfB, gtfC, gbpB, spaP, brpA, relA, and vicR were significantly decreased in S. mutans when it was treated with KA. These results suggest that KA from A. continentalis may be a useful agent for inhibiting the cariogenic properties of S. mutans.
PMCID: PMC3638610  PMID: 23662113
8.  Development of Genetic System to Inactivate a Borrelia turicatae Surface Protein Selectively Produced within the Salivary Glands of the Arthropod Vector 
Borrelia turicatae, an agent of tick-borne relapsing fever, is an example of a pathogen that can adapt to disparate conditions found when colonizing the mammalian host and arthropod vector. However, little is known about the genetic factors necessary during the tick-mammalian infectious cycle, therefore we developed a genetic system to transform this species of spirochete. We also identified a plasmid gene that was up-regulated in vitro when B. turicatae was grown in conditions mimicking the tick environment. This 40 kilodalton protein was predicted to be surface localized and designated the Borrelia repeat protein A (brpA) due to the redundancy of the amino acid motif Gln-Gly-Asn-Val-Glu.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Quantitative reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction using RNA from B. turicatae infected ticks and mice indicated differential regulation of brpA during the tick-mammalian infectious cycle. The surface localization was determined, and production of the protein within the salivary glands of the tick was demonstrated. We then applied a novel genetic system for B. turicatae to inactivate brpA and examined the role of the gene product for vector colonization and the ability to establish murine infection.
These results demonstrate the complexity of protein production in a population of spirochetes within the tick. Additionally, the development of a genetic system is important for future studies to evaluate the requirement of specific B. turicatae genes for vector colonization and transmission.
Author Summary
Relapsing fever spirochetes are a global yet neglected pathogen causing recurrent febrile episodes, nausea, vomiting, and pregnancy complications including miscarriage. Most species of tick-borne relapsing fever spirochetes are maintained in enzootic cycles, and given an approximately 20 year life span, the arthropod vector for Borrelia turicatae represents a reservoir for the pathogens. While B. turicatae has adapted mechanisms to efficiently colonize and survive within the vector, the genes necessary during the tick-mammalian infectious cycle are unknown. We have identified a gene that was designated the Borrelia repeat protein A (brpA). brpA was up-regulated in a portion of the spirochetes colonizing Ornithodoros turicata, the vector for B. turicatae. Developing a system to delete the gene in B. turicatae enabled the evaluation of the necessity of brpA. With the genetic system established for B. turicatae, a better understanding of the genetic constituents required during the tick-mammalian infectious cycle may be obtained.
PMCID: PMC3814808  PMID: 24205425
9.  Novel Two-Component Regulatory System Involved in Biofilm Formation and Acid Resistance in Streptococcus mutans 
Journal of Bacteriology  2002;184(22):6333-6342.
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.
PMCID: PMC151940  PMID: 12399503
10.  Dynamics of Streptococcus mutans Transcriptome in Response to Starch and Sucrose during Biofilm Development 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(10):e13478.
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.
PMCID: PMC2957427  PMID: 20976057
11.  Cell Density Modulates Acid Adaptation in Streptococcus mutans: Implications for Survival in Biofilms 
Journal of Bacteriology  2001;183(23):6875-6884.
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.
PMCID: PMC95529  PMID: 11698377
12.  Effects of Oxygen on Biofilm Formation and the AtlA Autolysin of Streptococcus mutans▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2007;189(17):6293-6302.
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.
PMCID: PMC1951938  PMID: 17616606
13.  Nucleotide sequence analysis reveals linked N-acetyl hydrolase, thioesterase, transport, and regulatory genes encoded by the bialaphos biosynthetic gene cluster of Streptomyces hygroscopicus. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1991;173(14):4454-4463.
Nucleotide sequence analysis of a 5,000-bp region of the bialaphos antibiotic production (bap) gene cluster defined five open reading frames (ORFs) which predicted structural genes in the order bah, ORF1, ORF2, and ORF3 followed by the regulatory gene, brpA (H. Anzai, T. Murakami, S. Imai, A. Satoh, K. Nagaoka, and C.J. Thompson, J. Bacteriol. 169:3482-3488, 1987). The four structural genes were translationally coupled and apparently cotranscribed from an undefined promoter(s) under the positive control of the brpA gene product. S1 mapping experiments indicated that brpA was transcribed by two promoters (brpAp1 and brpAp2) which initiate transcription 150 and 157 bp upstream of brp A within an intergenic region and at least one promoter further upstream within the bap gene cluster (brpAp3). All three transcripts were present at low levels during exponential growth and increased just before the stationary phase. The levels of the brpAp3 band continued to increase at the onset of stationary phase, whereas brpAp1-and brpAp2-protected fragments showed no further change. BrpA contained a possible helix-turn-helix motif at its C terminus which was similar to the C-terminal regulatory motif found in the receiver component of a family of two-component transcriptional activator proteins. This motif was not associated with the N-terminal domain conserved in other members of the family. The structural gene cluster sequenced began with bah, encoding a bialaphos acetylhydrolase which removes the N-acetyl group from bialaphos as one of the final steps in the biosynthetic pathway. The observation that Bah was similar to a rat and to a bacterial (Acinetobacter calcoaceticus) lipase probably reflects the fact that the ester bonds of triglycerides and the amide bond linking acetate to phosphinothricin are similar and hydrolysis is catalyzed by structurally related enzymes. This was followed by two regions encoding ORF1 and ORF2 which were similar to each other (48% nucleotide identity, 31% amino acid identity), as well as to GrsT, a protein encoded by a gene located adjacent to gramicidin S synthetase in Bacillus brevis, and to vertebrate (mallard duck and rat) thioesterases. The amino acid sequence and hydrophobicity profile of ORF3 indicated that it was related to a family of membrane transport proteins. It was strikingly similar to the citrate uptake protein encoded by the transposon Tn3411.
PMCID: PMC208109  PMID: 2066341
14.  Effects of RelA on Key Virulence Properties of Planktonic and Biofilm Populations of Streptococcus mutans  
Infection and Immunity  2004;72(3):1431-1440.
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.
PMCID: PMC356000  PMID: 14977948
15.  Identification of a c-di-GMP-Regulated Polysaccharide Locus Governing Stress Resistance and Biofilm and Rugose Colony Formation in Vibrio vulnificus▿  
Infection and Immunity  2010;78(3):1390-1402.
As an etiological agent of bacterial sepsis and wound infections, Vibrio vulnificus is unique among the Vibrionaceae. Its continued environmental persistence and transmission are bolstered by its ability to colonize shellfish, form biofilms on various marine biotic surfaces, and generate a morphologically and physiologically distinct rugose (R) variant that yields profuse biofilms. Here, we identify a c-di-GMP-regulated locus (brp, for biofilm and rugose polysaccharide) and two transcription factors (BrpR and BrpT) that regulate these physiological responses. Disruption of glycosyltransferases within the locus or either regulator abated the inducing effect of c-di-GMP on biofilm formation, rugosity, and stress resistance. The same lesions, or depletion of intracellular c-di-GMP levels, abrogated these phenotypes in the R variant. The parental and brp mutant strains formed only scant monolayers on glass surfaces and oyster shells, and although the R variant formed expansive biofilms, these were of limited depth. Dramatic vertical expansion of the biofilm structure was observed in the parental strain and R variant, but not the brp mutants, when intracellular c-di-GMP levels were elevated. Hence, the brp-encoded polysaccharide is important for surface colonization and stress resistance in V. vulnificus, and its expression may control how the bacteria switch from a planktonic lifestyle to colonizing shellfish to invading human tissue.
PMCID: PMC2825937  PMID: 20065022
16.  Streptococcus mutans Protein Synthesis during Mixed-Species Biofilm Development by High-Throughput Quantitative Proteomics 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e45795.
Biofilms formed on tooth surfaces are comprised of mixed microbiota enmeshed in an extracellular matrix. Oral biofilms are constantly exposed to environmental changes, which influence the microbial composition, matrix formation and expression of virulence. Streptococcus mutans and sucrose are key modulators associated with the evolution of virulent-cariogenic biofilms. In this study, we used a high-throughput quantitative proteomics approach to examine how S. mutans produces relevant proteins that facilitate its establishment and optimal survival during mixed-species biofilms development induced by sucrose. Biofilms of S. mutans, alone or mixed with Actinomyces naeslundii and Streptococcus oralis, were initially formed onto saliva-coated hydroxyapatite surface under carbohydrate-limiting condition. Sucrose (1%, w/v) was then introduced to cause environmental changes, and to induce biofilm accumulation. Multidimensional protein identification technology (MudPIT) approach detected up to 60% of proteins encoded by S. mutans within biofilms. Specific proteins associated with exopolysaccharide matrix assembly, metabolic and stress adaptation processes were highly abundant as the biofilm transit from earlier to later developmental stages following sucrose introduction. Our results indicate that S. mutans within a mixed-species biofilm community increases the expression of specific genes associated with glucan synthesis and remodeling (gtfBC, dexA) and glucan-binding (gbpB) during this transition (P<0.05). Furthermore, S. mutans up-regulates specific adaptation mechanisms to cope with acidic environments (F1F0-ATPase system, fatty acid biosynthesis, branched chain amino acids metabolism), and molecular chaperones (GroEL). Interestingly, the protein levels and gene expression are in general augmented when S. mutans form mixed-species biofilms (vs. single-species biofilms) demonstrating fundamental differences in the matrix assembly, survival and biofilm maintenance in the presence of other organisms. Our data provide insights about how S. mutans optimizes its metabolism and adapts/survives within the mixed-species community in response to a dynamically changing environment. This reflects the intricate physiological processes linked to expression of virulence by this bacterium within complex biofilms.
PMCID: PMC3458072  PMID: 23049864
17.  Exopolysaccharides Produced by Streptococcus mutans Glucosyltransferases Modulate the Establishment of Microcolonies within Multispecies Biofilms▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2010;192(12):3024-3032.
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.
PMCID: PMC2901689  PMID: 20233920
18.  Characteristics of Biofilm Formation by Streptococcus mutans in the Presence of Saliva▿  
Infection and Immunity  2008;76(9):4259-4268.
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.
PMCID: PMC2519434  PMID: 18625741
19.  Role of Clp Proteins in Expression of Virulence Properties of Streptococcus mutans▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2009;191(7):2060-2068.
Mutational analysis revealed that members of the Clp system, specifically the ClpL chaperone and the ClpXP proteolytic complex, modulate the expression of important virulence attributes of Streptococcus mutans. Compared to its parent, the ΔclpL strain displayed an enhanced capacity to form biofilms in the presence of sucrose, had reduced viability, and was more sensitive to acid killing. The ΔclpP and ΔclpX strains displayed several phenotypes in common: slow growth, tendency to aggregate in culture, reduced autolysis, and reduced ability to grow under stress, including acidic pH. Unexpectedly, the ΔclpP and ΔclpX mutants were more resistant to acid killing and demonstrated enhanced viability in long-term survival assays. Biofilm formation by the ΔclpP and ΔclpX strains was impaired when grown in glucose but enhanced in sucrose. In an animal study, the average number of S. mutans colonies recovered from the teeth of rats infected with the ΔclpP or ΔclpX strain was slightly lower than that of the parent strain. In Bacillus subtilis, the accumulation of the Spx global regulator, a substrate of ClpXP, has accounted for the ΔclpXP phenotypes. Searching the S. mutans genome, we identified two putative spx genes, designated spxA and spxB. The inactivation of either of these genes bypassed phenotypes of the clpP and clpX mutants. Western blotting demonstrated that Spx accumulates in the ΔclpP and ΔclpX strains. Our results reveal that the proteolysis of ClpL and ClpXP plays a role in the expression of key virulence traits of S. mutans and indicates that the underlying mechanisms by which ClpXP affect virulence traits are associated with the accumulation of two Spx orthologues.
PMCID: PMC2655509  PMID: 19181818
20.  Multiparameter Assessments To Determine the Effects of Sugars and Antimicrobials on a Polymicrobial Oral Biofilm 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2006;72(10):6734-6742.
Clinical studies indicate relationships between dental plaque, a naturally formed biofilm, and oral diseases. The crucial role of nonmicrobial biofilm constituents in maintaining biofilm structure and biofilm-specific attributes, such as resistance to shear and viscoelasticity, is increasingly recognized. Concurrent analyses of the diverse nonmicrobial biofilm components for multiparameter assessments formed the focus of this investigation. Comparable numbers of Actinomyces viscosus, Streptococcus sanguinis, Streptococcus mutans, Neisseria subflava, and Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans cells were seeded into multiple wells of 96-well polystyrene plates for biofilm formation. Quantitative fluorescence and confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM) examined the influences of dietary sugars, incubation conditions, ingredients in oral hygiene formulations, and antibiotics on biofilm components. Biofilm extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) were examined with an optimized mixture of fluorescent lectins, with biofilm proteins, lipids, and nucleic acids detected with specific fluorescent stains. Anaerobic incubation of biofilms resulted in significantly more biofilm EPS and extractable carbohydrates than those formed under aerobic conditions (P < 0.05). Sucrose significantly enhanced biofilm EPS in comparison to fructose, galactose, glucose, and lactose (P < 0.05). CLSM demonstrated thicker biofilms under sucrose-replete conditions, along with significant increases in biofilm EPS, proteins, lipids, and nucleic acids, than under conditions of sucrose deficiency (P < 0.05). Agents in oral hygiene formulations (chlorhexidine, ethanol, and sodium lauryl sulfate), a mucolytic agent (N-acetyl-l-cysteine), and antibiotics with different modes of action (amoxicillin, doxycycline, erythromycin, metronidazole, and vancomycin) inhibited biofilm components (P < 0.05). Multiparameter analysis indicated a dose-dependent inhibition of biofilm EPS and protein by chlorhexidine and sodium lauryl sulfate, along with distinctive inhibitory patterns for subinhibitory concentrations of antibiotics. Collectively, these results highlight multiparameter assessments as a broad platform for simultaneous assessment of diverse biofilm components.
PMCID: PMC1610311  PMID: 17021225
21.  Influences of trans-trans farnesol, a membrane-targeting sesquiterpenoid, on Streptococcus mutans physiology and survival within mixed-species oral biofilms 
Trans-trans farnesol (tt-farnesol) is a bioactive sesquiterpene alcohol commonly found in propolis (a beehive product) and citrus fruits, which disrupts the ability of Streptococcus mutans (S. mutans) to form virulent biofilms. In this study, we investigated whether tt-farnesol affects cell-membrane function, acid production and/or acid tolerance by planktonic cells and biofilms of S. mutans UA159. Furthermore, the influence of the agent on S. mutans gene expression and ability to form biofilms in the presence of other oral bacteria (Streptococcus oralis (S. oralis) 35037 and Actinomyces naeslundii (A. naeslundii) 12104) was also examined. In general, tt-farnesol (1 mmol-L−1) significantly increased the membrane proton permeability and reduced glycolytic activity of S. mutans in the planktonic state and in biofilms (P<0.05). Moreover, topical applications of 1 mmol-L−1 tt-farnesol twice daily (1 min exposure/treatment) reduced biomass accumulation and prevented ecological shifts towards S. mutans dominance within mixed-species biofilms after introduction of 1% sucrose. S. oralis (a non-cariogenic organism) became the major species after treatments with tt-farnesol, whereas vehicle-treated biofilms contained mostly S. mutans (>90% of total bacterial population). However, the agent did not affect significantly the expression of S. mutans genes involved in acidogenicity, acid tolerance or polysaccharide synthesis in the treated biofilms. Our data indicate that tt-farnesol may affect the competitiveness of S. mutans in a mixed-species environment by primarily disrupting the membrane function and physiology of this bacterium. This naturally occurring terpenoid could be a potentially useful adjunctive agent to the current anti-biofilm/anti-caries chemotherapeutic strategies.
PMCID: PMC3469883  PMID: 21485314
trans-trans farnesol; acid production; acid tolerance; biofilms; proton permeability; Streptococcus mutans
22.  Streptococcus mutans Competence-Stimulating Peptide Inhibits Candida albicans Hypha Formation ▿  
Eukaryotic Cell  2009;8(11):1658-1664.
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.
PMCID: PMC2772401  PMID: 19717744
23.  Symbiotic Relationship between Streptococcus mutans and Candida albicans Synergizes Virulence of Plaque Biofilms In Vivo 
Infection and Immunity  2014;82(5):1968-1981.
Streptococcus mutans is often cited as the main bacterial pathogen in dental caries, particularly in early-childhood caries (ECC). S. mutans may not act alone; Candida albicans cells are frequently detected along with heavy infection by S. mutans in plaque biofilms from ECC-affected children. It remains to be elucidated whether this association is involved in the enhancement of biofilm virulence. We showed that the ability of these organisms together to form biofilms is enhanced in vitro and in vivo. The presence of C. albicans augments the production of exopolysaccharides (EPS), such that cospecies biofilms accrue more biomass and harbor more viable S. mutans cells than single-species biofilms. The resulting 3-dimensional biofilm architecture displays sizeable S. mutans microcolonies surrounded by fungal cells, which are enmeshed in a dense EPS-rich matrix. Using a rodent model, we explored the implications of this cross-kingdom interaction for the pathogenesis of dental caries. Coinfected animals displayed higher levels of infection and microbial carriage within plaque biofilms than animals infected with either species alone. Furthermore, coinfection synergistically enhanced biofilm virulence, leading to aggressive onset of the disease with rampant carious lesions. Our in vitro data also revealed that glucosyltransferase-derived EPS is a key mediator of cospecies biofilm development and that coexistence with C. albicans induces the expression of virulence genes in S. mutans (e.g., gtfB, fabM). We also found that Candida-derived β1,3-glucans contribute to the EPS matrix structure, while fungal mannan and β-glucan provide sites for GtfB binding and activity. Altogether, we demonstrate a novel mutualistic bacterium-fungus relationship that occurs at a clinically relevant site to amplify the severity of a ubiquitous infectious disease.
PMCID: PMC3993459  PMID: 24566629
24.  Role of sortase in Streptococcus mutans under the effect of nicotine 
Streptococcus mutans is a common Gram-positive bacterium and plays a significant role in dental caries. Tobacco and/or nicotine have documented effects on S. mutans growth and colonization. Sortase A is used by many Gram-positive bacteria, including S. mutans, to facilitate the insertion of certain cell surface proteins, containing an LPXTGX motif such as antigen I/II. This study examined the effect of nicotine on the function of sortase A to control the physiology and growth of S. mutans using wild-type S. mutans NG8, and its isogenic sortase-defective and -complemented strains. Briefly, the strains were treated with increasing amounts of nicotine in planktonic growth, biofilm metabolism, and sucrose-induced and saliva-induced antigen I/II-dependent biofilm formation assays. The strains exhibited no significant differences with different concentrations of nicotine in planktonic growth assays. However, they had significantly increased (P≤0.05) biofilm metabolic activity (2- to 3-fold increase) as the concentration of nicotine increased. Furthermore, the sortase-defective strain was more sensitive metabolically to nicotine than the wild-type or sortase-complemented strains. All strains had significantly increased sucrose-induced biofilm formation (2- to 3-fold increase) as a result of increasing concentrations of nicotine. However, the sortase-defective strain was not able to make as much sucrose- and saliva-induced biofilm as the wild-type NG8 did with increasing nicotine concentrations. These results indicated that nicotine increased metabolic activity and sucrose-induced biofilm formation. The saliva-induced biofilm formation assay and qPCR data suggested that antigen I/II was upregulated with nicotine but biofilm was not able to be formed as much as wild-type NG8 without functional sortase A.
PMCID: PMC3967321  PMID: 24136674
dental caries; metabolism; nicotine; sortase A; Streptococcus mutans
25.  Synergistic effect of xylitol and ursolic acid combination on oral biofilms 
This study was designed to evaluate the synergistic antibacterial effect of xylitol and ursolic acid (UA) against oral biofilms in vitro.
Materials and Methods
S. mutans UA 159 (wild type), S. mutans KCOM 1207, KCOM 1128 and S. sobrinus ATCC 33478 were used. The susceptibility of S. mutans to UA and xylitol was evaluated using a broth microdilution method. Based on the results, combined susceptibility was evaluated using optimal inhibitory combinations (OIC), optimal bactericidal combinations (OBC), and fractional inhibitory concentrations (FIC). The anti-biofilm activity of xylitol and UA on Streptococcus spp. was evaluated by growing cells in 24-well polystyrene microtiter plates for the biofilm assay. Significant mean differences among experimental groups were determined by Fisher's Least Significant Difference (p < 0.05).
The synergistic interactions between xylitol and UA were observed against all tested strains, showing the FICs < 1. The combined treatment of xylitol and UA inhibited the biofilm formation significantly and also prevented pH decline to critical value of 5.5 effectively. The biofilm disassembly was substantially influenced by different age of biofilm when exposed to the combined treatment of xylitol and UA. Comparing to the single strain, relatively higher concentration of xylitol and UA was needed for inhibiting and disassembling biofilm formed by a mixed culture of S. mutans 159 and S. sobrinus 33478.
This study demonstrated that xylitol and UA, synergistic inhibitors, can be a potential agent for enhancing the antimicrobial and anti-biofilm efficacy against S. mutans and S. sobrinus in the oral environment.
PMCID: PMC4223099  PMID: 25383348
Biofilm; Streptococcus mutans; Streptococcus sobrinus; Ursolic acid; Xylitol

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