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1.  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
2.  Manganese Affects Streptococcus mutans Virulence Gene Expression 
Caries Research  2007;41(6):503-511.
Studies of trace metals in drinking water and tooth enamel have suggested a caries-promoting potential for manganese (Mn). Additionally, Mn has been shown to be essential for the expression of mutans streptococci virulence factors such as the glucan-binding lectin (GBL) of Streptococcus sobrinus. The Streptococcus mutans glucan-binding protein (Gbp) GbpC is the functional analogue of the S. sobrinus GBL. S. mutans Gbps have been shown to contribute to biofilm architecture and virulence. This study was undertaken to examine the effects of Mn on the transcription of genes encoding S. mutans Gbps, including gbpC, along with other critical S. mutans virulence genes.
Microarray analyses suggested the potential for an Mn effect on Gbp genes. Further investigation of the Mn effects on selected genes was undertaken by performing Northern blots, Western blots, and RT-PCR under conditions of planktonic and biofilm growth in Mn-depleted media or in media containing 50 μM Mn.
Mn resulted in increased expression of gbpC and gtfB, and decreased expression of wapA, in both planktonic and biofilm cultures. The expression levels of gbpA and gbpD were also decreased in the presence of Mn, but only in biofilms. The expression of gtfC was increased in the presence of Mn only in planktonic cultures. The spaP gene was expressed more highly in Mn-supplemented planktonic cultures but less in Mn-supplemented biofilms.
Mn availability affects the expression of multiple S. mutans genes involved in adhesion and biofilm formation. Furthermore, these effects depend on the growth state of the organism.
PMCID: PMC2820327  PMID: 17992013
Biofilm; Manganese; Streptococcus mutans virulence
3.  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
4.  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
5.  LuxS-Based Signaling Affects Streptococcus mutans Biofilm Formation 
Streptococcus mutans is implicated as a major etiological agent in human dental caries, and one of the important virulence properties of this organism is its ability to form biofilms (dental plaque) on tooth surfaces. We examined the role of autoinducer-2 (AI-2) on S. mutans biofilm formation by constructing a GS-5 luxS-null mutant. Biofilm formation by the luxS mutant in 0.5% sucrose defined medium was found to be markedly attenuated compared to the wild type. Scanning electron microscopy also revealed that biofilms of the luxS mutant formed larger clumps in sucrose medium compared to the parental strain. Therefore, the expression of glucosyltransferase genes was examined and the gtfB and gtfC genes, but not the gtfD gene, in the luxS mutant were upregulated in the mid-log growth phase. Furthermore, we developed a novel two-compartment system to monitor AI-2 production by oral streptococci and periodontopathic bacteria. The biofilm defect of the luxS mutant was complemented by strains of S. gordonii, S. sobrinus, and S. anginosus; however, it was not complemented by S. oralis, S. salivarius, or S. sanguinis. Biofilm formation by the luxS mutant was also complemented by Porphyromonas gingivalis 381 and Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans Y4 but not by a P. gingivalis luxS mutant. These results suggest that the regulation of the glucosyltransferase genes required for sucrose-dependent biofilm formation is regulated by AI-2. Furthermore, these results provide further confirmation of previous proposals that quorum sensing via AI-2 may play a significant role in oral biofilm formation.
PMCID: PMC1087550  PMID: 15870324
6.  Downregulation of GbpB, a Component of the VicRK Regulon, Affects Biofilm Formation and Cell Surface Characteristics of Streptococcus mutans▿ †  
Infection and Immunity  2010;79(2):786-796.
The virulence of the dental caries pathogen Streptococcus mutans relies in part on the sucrose-dependent synthesis of and interaction with glucan, a major component of the extracellular matrix of tooth biofilms. However, the mechanisms by which secreted and/or cell-associated glucan-binding proteins (Gbps) produced by S. mutans participate in biofilm growth remain to be elucidated. In this study, we further investigate GbpB, an essential immunodominant protein with similarity to murein hydrolases. A conditional knockdown mutant that expressed gbpB antisense RNA under the control of a tetracycline-inducible promoter was constructed in strain UA159 (UACA2) and used to investigate the effects of GbpB depletion on biofilm formation and cell surface-associated characteristics. Additionally, regulation of gbpB by the two-component system VicRK was investigated, and phenotypic analysis of a vicK mutant (UAvicK) was performed. GbpB was directly regulated by VicR, and several phenotypic changes were comparable between UACA2 and UAvicK, although differences between these strains existed. It was established that GbpB depletion impaired initial phases of sucrose-dependent biofilm formation, while exogenous native GbpB partially restored the biofilm phenotype. Several cellular traits were significantly affected by GbpB depletion, including altered cell shape, decreased autolysis, increased cell hydrophobicity, and sensitivity to antibiotics and osmotic and oxidative stresses. These data provide the first experimental evidence for GbpB participation in sucrose-dependent biofilm formation and in cell surface properties.
PMCID: PMC3028841  PMID: 21078847
7.  Mutans Streptococcal Infection Induces Salivary Antibody to Virulence Proteins and Associated Functional Domains▿  
Infection and Immunity  2008;76(8):3606-3613.
The interplay between mucosal immune responses to natural exposure to mutans streptococci and the incorporation and accumulation of these cariogenic microorganisms in oral biofilms is unclear. An initial approach to explore this question would be to assess the native secretory immunity emerging as a consequence of Streptococcus mutans infection. To this end, we analyzed salivary immunoglobulin A (IgA) antibody to mutans streptococcal glucosyltransferase (Gtf) and glucan binding protein B (GbpB) and to domains associated with enzyme function and major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II binding in two experiments. Salivas were collected from approximately 45-day-old Sprague-Dawley rats, which were then infected with S. mutans SJ32. Infection was verified and allowed to continue for 2 to 2.5 months. Salivas were again collected following the infection period. Pre- and postinfection salivas were then analyzed for IgA antibody activity using peptide- or protein-coated microsphere Luminex technology. S. mutans infection induced significant levels of salivary IgA antibody to Gtf (P < 0.002) and GbpB (P < 0.001) in both experiments, although the levels were usually far lower than the levels achieved when mucosal immunization is used. Significantly (P < 0.035 to P < 0.001) elevated levels of postinfection salivary IgA antibody to 6/10 Gtf peptides associated with either enzyme function or MHC binding were detected. The postinfection levels of antibody to two GbpB peptides in the N-terminal region of the six GbpB peptides assayed were also elevated (P < 0.031 and P < 0.001). Interestingly, the patterns of the rodent response to GbpB peptides were similar to the patterns seen in salivas from young children during their initial exposure to S. mutans. Thus, the presence of a detectable postinfection salivary IgA response to mutans streptococcal virulence-associated components, coupled with the correspondence between rat and human mucosal immune responsiveness to naturally presented Gtf and GbpB epitopes, suggests that the rat may be a useful model for defining mucosal responses that could be expected in humans. Under controlled infection conditions, such a model could prove to be helpful for unraveling relationships between the host response and oral biofilm development.
PMCID: PMC2493197  PMID: 18474645
8.  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
9.  A New Small Molecule Specifically Inhibits the Cariogenic Bacterium Streptococcus mutans in Multispecies Biofilms▿ 
Streptococcus mutans is a major cariogenic bacterium. It has adapted to the biofilm lifestyle, which is essential for pathogenesis of dental caries. We aimed to identify small molecules that can inhibit cariogenic S. mutans and to discover lead structures that could give rise to therapeutics for dental caries. In this study, we screened a focused small-molecule library of 506 compounds. Eight small molecules which inhibited S. mutans at a concentration of 4 μM or less but did not affect cell growth or biofilm formation of commensal bacteria, represented by Streptococcus sanguinis and Streptococcus gordonii, in monospecies biofilms were identified. The active compounds share similar structural properties, which are characterized by a 2-aminoimidazole (2-AI) or 2-aminobenzimidazole (2-ABI) subunit. In multispecies biofilm models, the most active compound also inhibited cell survival and biofilm formation of S. mutans but did not affect commensal streptococci. This inhibitor downregulated the expression of six biofilm-associated genes, ftf, pac, relA, comDE, gbpB, and gtfB, in planktonic S. mutans cells, while it downregulated the expression of only ftf, pac, and relA in the biofilm cells of S. mutans. The most potent compound also inhibited production of two key adhesins of S. mutans, antigen I/II and glucosyltransferase (GTF). However, the compound did not alter the expression of the corresponding genes in both S. sanguinis and S. gordonii, indicating that it possesses a selective inhibitory activity against S. mutans.
PMCID: PMC3101470  PMID: 21402858
10.  Inactivation of the gbpA Gene of Streptococcus mutans Alters Structural and Functional Aspects of Plaque Biofilm Which Are Compensated by Recombination of the gtfB and gtfC Genes 
Infection and Immunity  1999;67(8):3909-3914.
Inactivation of the gbpA gene of Streptococcus mutans increases virulence in a gnotobiotic rat model and also promotes in vivo accumulation of organisms in which gtfB and gtfC have recombined to reduce virulence (K. R. O. Hazlett, S. M. Michalek, and J. A. Banas, Infect. Immun. 66:2180–2185, 1998). These changes in virulence were hypothesized to result from changes in plaque structure. We have utilized an in vitro plaque model to test the hypothesis that the absence of GbpA alters S. mutans plaque structure and that the presence of gtfBC recombinant organisms within a gbpA background restores a wild-type (wt)-like plaque structure. When grown in the presence of sucrose within hydroxyapatite-coated wells, the wt S. mutans plaque consisted primarily of large aggregates which did not completely coat the hydroxyapatite surface, whereas the gbpA mutant plaque consisted of a uniform layer of smaller aggregates which almost entirely coated the hydroxyapatite. If 25% of the gbpA mutants used as inoculum were also gtfBC recombinants (gbpA/25%gtfBC), a wt-like plaque was formed. These changes in plaque structure correlated with differences in susceptibility to ampicillin; gbpA plaque organisms were more susceptible than organisms in either the wt or gbpA/25%gtfBC plaques. These data allow the conclusion that GbpA contributes to S. mutans plaque biofilm development. Since the changes in plaque structure detailed in this report correlate well with previously observed changes in virulence, it seems likely that S. mutans biofilm structure influences virulence. A potential model for this influence, which can account for the gtfBC recombination compensating gbpA inactivation, is that the ratio of glucan to glucan-binding protein is a critical factor in plaque development.
PMCID: PMC96671  PMID: 10417155
11.  Streptococcus Mutans Glucan-Binding Protein-A Affects Streptococcus Gordonii Biofilm Architecture 
FEMS microbiology letters  2006;267(1):80-88.
The glucan-binding protein-A (GbpA) of Streptococcus mutans has been shown to contribute to the architecture of glucan-dependent biofilms formed by this species and influence virulence in a rat model. Since S. mutans synthesizes multiple glucosyltransferases (GTF) and non-GTF glucan-binding proteins (GBPs), it’s possible that there is functional redundancy that overshadows the full extent of GbpA contributions to S. mutans biology. Glucan-associated properties such as adhesion, aggregation, and biofilm formation were examined independently of other S. mutans GBPs by cloning the gbpA gene into a heterologous host, Streptococcus gordonii, and derivatives with altered or diminished GTF activity. The presence of GbpA did not alter dextran-dependent aggregation nor the initial sucrose-dependent adhesion of S. gordonii. However, expression of GbpA altered the biofilm formed by wild-type S. gordonii as well as the biofilm formed by strain CH107 that produced primarily α-1,6-linked glucan. Expression of gbpA did not alter the biofilm formed by strain DS512 that produced significantly lower quantities of parental glucan. These data are consistent with a role for GbpA in facilitating the development of biofilms that harbor taller microcolonies via binding to α-1,6-linkages within glucan. The magnitude of the GbpA effect appears dependent on the quantity and linkage of available glucan.
PMCID: PMC1780135  PMID: 17166223
12.  Role of the Streptococcus mutans irvA Gene in GbpC-Independent, Dextran-Dependent Aggregation and Biofilm Formation▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2009;75(22):7037-7043.
Dextran-dependent aggregation (DDAG) of Streptococcus mutans is an in vitro phenomenon that is believed to represent a property of the organism that is beneficial for sucrose-dependent biofilm development. GbpC, a cell surface glucan-binding protein, is responsible for DDAG in S. mutans when cultured under defined stressful conditions. Recent reports have described a putative transcriptional regulator gene, irvA, located just upstream of gbpC, that is normally repressed by the product of an adjacent gene, irvR. When repression of irvA is relieved, there is a resulting increase in the expression of GbpC and decreases in competence and synthesis of the antibiotic mutacin I. This study examined the role of irvA in DDAG and biofilm formation by engineering strains that overexpressed irvA (IrvA+) on an extrachromosomal plasmid. The IrvA+ strain displayed large aggregation particles that did not require stressful growth conditions. A novel finding was that overexpression of irvA in a gbpC mutant background retained a measure of DDAG, albeit very small aggregation particles. Biofilms formed by the IrvA+ strain in the parental background possessed larger-than-normal microcolonies. In a gbpC mutant background, the overexpression of irvA reversed the fragile biofilm phenotype normally associated with loss of GbpC. Real-time PCR and Northern blot analyses found that expression of gbpC did not change significantly in the IrvA+ strain but expression of spaP, encoding the major surface adhesin P1, increased significantly. Inactivation of spaP eliminated the small-particle DDAG. The results suggest that IrvA promotes DDAG not only by GbpC, but also via an increase in P1.
PMCID: PMC2786544  PMID: 19783751
13.  Inactivation of the gbpA Gene of Streptococcus mutans Increases Virulence and Promotes In Vivo Accumulation of Recombinations between the Glucosyltransferase B and C Genes 
Infection and Immunity  1998;66(5):2180-2185.
Glucan-binding protein A (GbpA) of Streptococcus mutans has been hypothesized to promote sucrose-dependent adherence and the cohesiveness of plaque and therefore to contribute to caries formation. We have analyzed the adherence properties and virulence of isogenic gbpA mutants relative to those of wild-type S. mutans. Contrary to expectations, the gbpA mutant strains displayed enhanced sucrose-dependent adherence in vitro and enhanced cariogenicity in vivo. In vitro, S. mutans was grown in the presence of [3H]thymidine and sucrose within glass vials. When grown with constant rotation, significantly higher levels of gbpA mutant organisms than of wild type remained adherent to the vial walls. Postgrowth vortexing of rotated cultures significantly decreased adherence of wild-type organisms, whereas the adherence of gbpA mutant organisms was unaffected. In the gnotobiotic rat model, the gbpA mutant strain was hypercariogenic though the colonization levels were not significantly different from those of the wild type. The gbpA mutant strain became enriched in vivo with organisms that had undergone a recombination involving the gtfB and gtfC genes. The incidence of gtfBC recombinant organisms increased as a function of dietary sucrose availability and was inversely correlated with caries development. We propose that the absence of GbpA elevates the cariogenic potential of S. mutans by altering the structure of plaque. However, the hypercariogenic plaque generated by gbpA mutant organisms may be suboptimal for S. mutans, leading to the accumulation of gtfBC recombinants whose reduced glucosyltransferase activity restores a less cariogenic plaque structure.
PMCID: PMC108179  PMID: 9573105
14.  α-Mangostin Disrupts the Development of Streptococcus mutans Biofilms and Facilitates Its Mechanical Removal 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e111312.
α-Mangostin (αMG) has been reported to be an effective antimicrobial agent against planktonic cells of Streptococcus mutans, a biofilm-forming and acid-producing cariogenic organism. However, its anti-biofilm activity remains to be determined. We examined whether αMG, a xanthone purified from Garcinia mangostana L grown in Vietnam, disrupts the development, acidogenicity, and/or the mechanical stability of S. mutans biofilms. Treatment regimens simulating those experienced clinically (twice-daily, 60 s exposure each) were used to assess the bioactivity of αMG using a saliva-coated hydroxyapatite (sHA) biofilm model. Topical applications of early-formed biofilms with αMG (150 µM) effectively reduced further biomass accumulation and disrupted the 3D architecture of S. mutans biofilms. Biofilms treated with αMG had lower amounts of extracellular insoluble and intracellular iodophilic polysaccharides (30–45%) than those treated with vehicle control (P<0.05), while the number of viable bacterial counts was unaffected. Furthermore, αMG treatments significantly compromised the mechanical stability of the biofilm, facilitating its removal from the sHA surface when subjected to a constant shear stress of 0.809 N/m2 (>3-fold biofilm detachment from sHA vs. vehicle-treated biofilms; P<0.05). Moreover, acid production by S. mutans biofilms was disrupted following αMG treatments (vs. vehicle-control, P<0.05). The activity of enzymes associated with glucan synthesis, acid production, and acid tolerance (glucosyltransferases B and C, phosphotransferase-PTS system, and F1F0-ATPase) were significantly inhibited by αMG. The expression of manL, encoding a key component of the mannose PTS, and gtfB were slightly repressed by αMG treatment (P<0.05), while the expression of atpD (encoding F-ATPase) and gtfC genes was unaffected. Hence, this study reveals that brief exposures to αMG can disrupt the development and structural integrity of S. mutans biofilms, at least in part via inhibition of key enzymatic systems associated with exopolysaccharide synthesis and acidogenicity. αMG could be an effective anti-virulence additive for the control and/or removal of cariogenic biofilms.
PMCID: PMC4211880  PMID: 25350668
15.  Comparative Analysis of Gtf Isozyme Production and Diversity in Isolates of Streptococcus mutans with Different Biofilm Growth Phenotypes 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2004;42(10):4586-4592.
Streptococcus mutans is the main pathogenic agent of dental caries. Glucosyltransferases (Gtfs) produced by these bacteria are important virulence factors because they catalyze the extracellular synthesis of glucans that are necessary for bacterial accumulation in the dental biofilm. The diversity of GtfB and GtfC isozymes was analyzed in 44 genotypes of S. mutans that showed a range of abilities to form biofilms in vitro. Several approaches were used to characterize these isozymes, including restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis of the gtfB and gtfC genes, zymographic analysis of the identified GtfB and GtfC genotypes, and quantitation of isozyme production in immunoblot experiments with specific monoclonal antibodies. A high diversity of gtf genes, patterns of enzymatic activity, and isozyme production was identified among the isolates tested. GtfC and, to a lesser extent, GtfB were produced in significantly higher amounts by strains that had high biofilm-forming ability than by strains with low biofilm-forming ability. Biofilm formation was independent of the GtfB and GtfC genotype. Atypical strains that showed an apparent single Gtf isozyme of intermediate size between GtfB and GtfC were also identified. The results indicate that various expression levels of GtfB and GtfC isozymes are associated with the ability of distinct S. mutans genotypes to grow as biofilms, strengthening the results of previous genetic and biochemical studies performed with laboratory strains. These studies also emphasize the need to identify factors that control gtf gene expression.
PMCID: PMC522304  PMID: 15472313
16.  A VicRK Signal Transduction System in Streptococcus mutans Affects gtfBCD, gbpB, and ftf Expression, Biofilm Formation, and Genetic Competence Development 
Journal of Bacteriology  2005;187(12):4064-4076.
Bacteria exposed to transient host environments can elicit adaptive responses by triggering the differential expression of genes via two-component signal transduction systems. This study describes the vicRK signal transduction system in Streptococcus mutans. A vicK (putative histidine kinase) deletion mutant (SmuvicK) was isolated. However, a vicR (putative response regulator) null mutation was apparently lethal, since the only transformants isolated after attempted mutagenesis overexpressed all three genes in the vicRKX operon (Smuvic+). Compared with the wild-type UA159 strain, both mutants formed aberrant biofilms. Moreover, the vicK mutant biofilm formed in sucrose-supplemented medium was easily detachable relative to that of the parent. The rate of total dextran formation by this mutant was remarkably reduced compared to the wild type, whereas it was increased in Smuvic+. Based on real-time PCR, Smuvic+ showed increased gtfBCD, gbpB, and ftf expression, while a recombinant VicR fusion protein was shown to bind the promoter regions of the gtfB, gtfC, and ftf genes. Also, transformation efficiency in the presence or absence of the S. mutans competence-stimulating peptide was altered for the vic mutants. In vivo studies conducted using SmuvicK in a specific-pathogen-free rat model resulted in significantly increased smooth-surface dental plaque (Pearson-Filon statistic [PF], <0.001). While the absence of vicK did not alter the incidence of caries, a significant reduction in SmuvicK CFU counts was observed in plaque samples relative to that of the parent (PF, <0.001). Taken together, these findings support involvement of the vicRK signal transduction system in regulating several important physiological processes in S. mutans.
PMCID: PMC1151735  PMID: 15937169
17.  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
18.  Influence of Apigenin on gtf Gene Expression in Streptococcus mutans UA159 
Apigenin, a potent inhibitor of glucosyltransferase activity, affects the accumulation of Streptococcus mutans biofilms in vitro by reducing the formation of insoluble glucans and enhancing the soluble glucan content of the polysaccharide matrix. In the present study, we investigated the influence of apigenin on gtfB, gtfC, and gtfD expression in S. mutans UA159. Apigenin (0.1 mM) significantly decreased the expression of gtfB and gtfC mRNA (P < 0.05); in contrast, it increased the expression of gtfD in S. mutans growing in the planktonic state. The protein levels of GTF B, GTF C, and GTF D in culture supernatants were also affected; less GTF B and C were detected, whereas the level of GTF D was significantly elevated (P < 0.05). A similar profile of gtf expression was obtained with biofilms, although an elevated concentration (1 mM) of apigenin was required to elicit the effects. The influence of apigenin on gtf gene expression was independent of any effect on GTF activity, did not involve inhibition of growth or effects on pH, and was not affected by addition of sucrose. The data show that apigenin modulates the genetic expression of virulence factors in S. mutans.
PMCID: PMC1366919  PMID: 16436708
19.  Investigating Acid Production by Streptococcus mutans with a Surface-Displayed pH-Sensitive Green Fluorescent Protein 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e57182.
Acidogenicity and aciduricity are the main virulence factors of the cavity-causing bacterium Streptococcus mutans. Monitoring at the individual cell level the temporal and spatial distribution of acid produced by this important oral pathogen is central for our understanding of these key virulence factors especially when S. mutans resides in multi-species microbial communities. In this study, we explored the application of pH-sensitive green fluorescent proteins (pHluorins) to investigate these important features. Ecliptic pHluorin was functionally displayed on the cell surface of S. mutans as a fusion protein with SpaP. The resulting strain (O87) was used to monitor temporal and spatial pH changes in the microenvironment of S. mutans cells under both planktonic and biofilm conditions. Using strain O87, we revealed a rapid pH drop in the microenviroment of S. mutans microcolonies prior to the decrease in the macro-environment pH following sucrose fermentation. Meanwhile, a non-uniform pH distribution was observed within S. mutans biofilms, reflecting differences in microbial metabolic activity. Furthermore, strain O87 was successfully used to monitor the S. mutans acid production profiles within dual- and multispecies oral biofilms. Based on these findings, the ecliptic pHluorin allows us to investigate in vivo and in situ acid production and distribution by the cariogenic species S. mutans.
PMCID: PMC3585301  PMID: 23468929
20.  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
21.  Effects of Oxygen on Virulence Traits of Streptococcus mutans▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2007;189(23):8519-8527.
Oxygen profoundly affects the composition of oral biofilms. Recently, we showed that exposure of Streptococcus mutans to oxygen strongly inhibits biofilm formation and alters cell surface biogenesis. To begin to dissect the underlying mechanisms by which oxygen affects known virulence traits of S. mutans, transcription profiling was used to show that roughly 5% of the genes of this organism are differentially expressed in response to aeration. Among the most profoundly upregulated genes were autolysis-related genes and those that encode bacteriocins, the ClpB protease chaperone subunit, pyruvate dehydrogenase, the tricarboxylic acid cycle enzymes, NADH oxidase enzymes, and certain carbohydrate transporters and catabolic pathways. Consistent with our observation that the ability of S. mutans to form biofilms was severely impaired by oxygen exposure, transcription of the gtfB gene, which encodes one of the primary enzymes involved in the production of water-insoluble, adhesive glucan exopolysaccharides, was down-regulated in cells growing aerobically. Further investigation revealed that transcription of gtfB, but not gtfC, was responsive to oxygen and that aeration causes major changes in the amount and degree of cell association of the Gtf enzymes. Moreover, inactivation of the VicK sensor kinase affected the expression and localization the GtfB and GtfC enzymes. This study provides novel insights into the complex transcriptional and posttranscriptional regulatory networks used by S. mutans to modulate virulence gene expression and exopolysaccharide production in response to changes in oxygen availability.
PMCID: PMC2168947  PMID: 17921307
22.  Influences of naturally occurring agents in combination with fluoride on gene expression and structural organization of Streptococcus mutans in biofilms 
BMC Microbiology  2009;9:228.
The association of specific bioactive flavonoids and terpenoids with fluoride can modulate the development of cariogenic biofilms by simultaneously affecting the synthesis of exopolysaccharides (EPS) and acid production by Streptococcus mutans, which enhanced the cariostatic effectiveness of fluoride in vivo. In the present study, we further investigated whether the biological actions of combinations of myricetin (flavonoid), tt-farnesol (terpenoid) and fluoride can influence the expression of specific genes of S. mutans within biofilms and their structural organization using real-time PCR and confocal fluorescence microscopy.
Twice-daily treatment (one-minute exposure) during biofilm formation affected the gene expression by S. mutans both at early (49-h) and later (97-h) stages of biofilm development. Biofilms treated with combination of agents displayed lower mRNA levels for gtfB and gtfD (associated with exopolysaccharides synthesis) and aguD (associated with S. mutans acid tolerance) than those treated with vehicle-control (p < 0.05). Furthermore, treatment with combination of agents markedly affected the structure-architecture of S. mutans biofilms by reducing the biovolume (biomass) and proportions of both EPS and bacterial cells across the biofilm depth, especially in the middle and outer layers (vs. vehicle-control, p < 0.05). The biofilms treated with combination of agents were also less acidogenic, and had reduced amounts of extracellular insoluble glucans and intracellular polysaccharides than vehicle-treated biofilms (p < 0.05).
The data show that the combination of naturally-occurring agents with fluoride effectively disrupted the expression of specific virulence genes, structural organization and accumulation of S. mutans biofilms, which may explain the enhanced cariostatic effect of our chemotherapeutic approach.
PMCID: PMC2774857  PMID: 19863808
23.  Lactobacillus Acidophilus-Derived Biosurfactant Effect on GTFB and GTFC Expression Level in Streptococcus Mutans Biofilm Cells 
Brazilian Journal of Microbiology  2011;42(1):330-339.
Streptococcus mutans (S. mutans), harboring biofilm formation, considered as a main aetiological factor of dental caries. Gtf genes play an important role in S. mutans biofilm formation. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of Lactobacillus acidophilus–derived biosurfactant on S. mutans biofilm formation and gtfB/C expression level (S. mutans standard strain ATCC35668 and isolated S. mutans strain (22) from dental plaque).
The Lactobacillus acidophilus (L. acidophilus) DSM 20079 was selected as a probiotic strain to produce biosurfactant. The FTIR analysis of its biosurfactant showed that it appears to have a protein-like component. Due to the release of such biosurfactants, L. acidophilus was able to interfere in the adhesion and biofilm formation of the S. mutans to glass slide. It also could make streptococcal chains shorter. Using realtime RT-PCR quantitation method made it clear that gtfB and gtfC gene expression were decreased in the presence of L. acidophilus–derived biosurfactant fraction.
Several properties of S. mutans cells (the surface properties, biofilm formation, adhesion ability and gene expression) were changed after L. acidophilus- derived biosurfactant treatment. It is also concluded that biosurfacant treatment can provide an optional way to control biofilm development. On the basis of our findings, we can suggest that the prepared biosurfactant may interfere with adhesion processes of S. mutans to teeth surfaces, provided additional evaluation produce satisfactory results.
PMCID: PMC3768947  PMID: 24031639
Biofilm formation; biosurfactant; gtfB/C; Lactobacillus acidophilus; real-time RT PCR; Streptococcus mutans
24.  Glucan-Binding Proteins are Essential for Shaping Streptococcus mutans Biofilm Architecture 
FEMS microbiology letters  2006;268(2):158-165.
Glucan plays a central role in sucrose-dependent biofilm formation by the dental pathogen Streptococcus mutans. This organism synthesizes several proteins capable of binding glucan. These are divided into the glucosyltransferases (Gtfs) that catalyze the synthesis of glucan and the non-Gtf glucan-binding proteins (Gbps). The biological significance of the Gbps has not been thoroughly defined, but studies suggest these proteins influence virulence and play a role in maintaining biofilm architecture by linking bacteria and extracellular molecules of glucan. We engineered a panel of Gbp mutants, targeting GbpA, GbpC, and GbpD, in which each gene encoding a Gbp was deleted individually and in combination. These strains were then analyzed by confocal microscopy and the biofilm properties quantified by the biofilm quantification software COMSTAT. All biofilms produced by mutant strains lost significant depth, but the basis for the reduction in height depended on which particular Gbp was missing. The loss of the cell-bound GbpC appeared dominant as might be expected based on losing the principal receptor for glucan. The loss of an extracellular Gbp, either GbpA or GbpD, also profoundly changed the biofilm architecture, each in a unique manner.
PMCID: PMC1804096  PMID: 17214736
25.  Phylogenetic Analysis of Glucosyltransferases and Implications for the Coevolution of Mutans Streptococci with Their Mammalian Hosts 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e56305.
Glucosyltransferases (Gtfs) catalyze the synthesis of glucans from sucrose and are produced by several species of lactic-acid bacteria. The oral bacterium Streptococcus mutans produces large amounts of glucans through the action of three Gtfs. GtfD produces water-soluble glucan (WSG), GtfB synthesizes water-insoluble glucans (WIG) and GtfC produces mainly WIG but also WSG. These enzymes, especially those synthesizing WIG, are of particular interest because of their role in the formation of dental plaque, an environment where S. mutans can thrive and produce lactic acid, promoting the formation of dental caries. We sequenced the gtfB, gtfC and gtfD genes from several mutans streptococcal strains isolated from the oral cavity of humans and searched for their homologues in strains isolated from chimpanzees and macaque monkeys. The sequence data were analyzed in conjunction with the available Gtf sequences from other bacteria in the genera Streptococcus, Lactobacillus and Leuconostoc to gain insights into the evolutionary history of this family of enzymes, with a particular emphasis on S. mutans Gtfs. Our analyses indicate that streptococcal Gtfs arose from a common ancestral progenitor gene, and that they expanded to form two clades according to the type of glucan they synthesize. We also show that the clade of streptococcal Gtfs synthesizing WIG appeared shortly after the divergence of viviparous, dentate mammals, which potentially contributed to the formation of dental plaque and the establishment of several streptococci in the oral cavity. The two S. mutans Gtfs capable of WIG synthesis, GtfB and GtfC, are likely the product of a gene duplication event. We dated this event to coincide with the divergence of the genomes of ancestral early primates. Thus, the acquisition and diversification of S. mutans Gtfs predates modern humans and is unrelated to the increase in dietary sucrose consumption.
PMCID: PMC3572963  PMID: 23457545

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