The Rex repressor has been implicated in regulation of central carbon and energy metabolism in Gram-positive bacteria. We have previously shown that Streptococcus mutans, the primary causative agent of dental caries, alters its transcriptome upon Rex-deficiency and renders S. mutans to have increased susceptibility to oxidative stress, aberrations in glucan production, and poor biofilm formation. In this study, we showed that rex in S. mutans is co-transcribed as an operon with downstream guaA, encoding a putative glutamine amidotransferase. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays showed that recombinant Rex bound promoters of target genes avidly and specifically, including those down-regulated in response to Rex-deficiency, and that the ability of recombinant Rex to bind to selected promoters was modulated by NADH and NAD+. Results suggest that Rex in S. mutans can function as an activator in response to intracellular NADH/NAD+ level, although the exact binding site for activator Rex remains unclear. Consistent with a role in oxidative stress tolerance, hydrogen peroxide challenge assays showed that the Rex-deficient mutant, TW239, and the Rex/GuaA double mutant, JB314, were more susceptible to hydrogen peroxide killing than the wildtype, UA159. Relative to UA159, JB314 displayed major defects in biofilm formation, with a decrease of more than 50-fold in biomass after 48-hours. Collectively, these results further suggest that Rex in S. mutans regulates fermentation pathways, oxidative stress tolerance, and biofilm formation in response to intracellular NADH/NAD+ level. Current effort is being directed to further investigation of the role of GuaA in S. mutans cellular physiology.
The transcriptional repressor Rex has been implicated in regulation of energy metabolism and fermentative growth in response to redox potential. Streptococcus mutans, the primary causative agent of human dental caries, possesses a gene that encodes a protein with high similarity to members of the Rex family of proteins. In this study, we showed that Rex-deficiency compromised the ability of S. mutans to cope with oxidative stress and to form biofilms. The Rex-deficient mutant also accumulated less biofilm after 3-days than the wild-type strain, especially when grown in sucrose-containing medium, but produced more extracellular glucans than the parental strain. Rex-deficiency caused substantial alterations in gene transcription, including those involved in heterofermentative metabolism, NAD+ regeneration and oxidative stress. Among the up-regulated genes was gtfC, which encodes glucosyltransferase C, an enzyme primarily responsible for synthesis of water-insoluble glucans. These results reveal that Rex plays an important role in oxidative stress responses and biofilm formation by S. mutans.
Redox sensing; oxidative stress; biofilm formation; Streptococcus mutans
Bacteria adhere to a surface and, through cell division and coordinated expression of gene products, to develop into a structurally-complex population of adherent cells. This process, known as biofilm formation, requires that intrinsic and extrinsic signals are transduced into appropriate gene expression patterns as biofilms mature. Mutational analysis has begun to reveal the complexity of systems used by Streptococcus mutans to ensure proper biofilm formation. These studies have revealed new and unique targets for the design of broadly-effective anti-caries strategies.
Microbial cell-cell interactions in the oral flora are believed to play an integral role in the development of dental plaque and ultimately, its pathogenicity. The effects of other species of oral bacteria on biofilm formation and virulence gene expression by Streptococcus mutans, the primary etiologic agent of dental caries, were evaluated using a dual-species biofilm model and RealTime-PCR analysis.
As compared to mono-species biofilms, biofilm formation by S. mutans was significantly decreased when grown with Streptococcus sanguinis, but was modestly increased when co-cultivated with Lactobacillus casei. Co-cultivation with S. mutans significantly enhanced biofilm formation by Streptococcus oralis and L. casei, as compared to the respective mono-species biofilms. RealTime-PCR analysis showed that expression of spaP (for multi-functional adhesin SpaP, a surface-associated protein that S. mutans uses to bind to the tooth surface in the absence of sucrose), gtfB (for glucosyltransferase B that synthesizes α1,6-linked glucan polymers from sucrose and starch carbohydrates) and gbpB (for surface-associated protein GbpB, which binds to the glucan polymers) was decreased significantly when S. mutans were co-cultivated with L. casei. Similar results were also found with expression of spaP and gbpB, but not gtfB, when S. mutans was grown in biofilms with S. oralis. Compared to mono-species biofilms, the expression of luxS in S. mutans co-cultivated with S. oralis or L. casei was also significantly decreased. No significant differences were observed in expression of the selected genes when S. mutans was co-cultivated with S. sanguinis.
These results suggest that the presence of specific oral bacteria differentially affects biofilm formation and virulence gene expression by S. mutans.
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.
CcpA globally regulates transcription in response to carbohydrate availability in many gram-positive bacteria, but its role in Streptococcus mutans remains enigmatic. Using the fructan hydrolase (fruA) gene of S. mutans as a model, we demonstrated that CcpA plays a direct role in carbon catabolite repression (CCR). Subsequently, the expression of 170 genes was shown to be differently expressed (≥2-fold) in glucose-grown wild-type (UA159) and CcpA-deficient (TW1) strains (P ≤ 0.001). However, there were differences in expression of only 96 genes between UA159 and TW1 when cells were cultivated with the poorly repressing substrate galactose. Interestingly, 90 genes were expressed differently in wild-type S. mutans when glucose- and galactose-grown cells were compared, but the expression of 515 genes was altered in the CcpA-deficient strain in a similar comparison. Overall, our results supported the hypothesis that CcpA has a major role in CCR and regulation of gene expression but revealed that in S. mutans there is a substantial CcpA-independent network that regulates gene expression in response to the carbohydrate source. Based on the genetic studies, biochemical and physiological experiments demonstrated that loss of CcpA impacts the ability of S. mutans to transport and grow on selected sugars. Also, the CcpA-deficient strain displayed an enhanced capacity to produce acid from intracellular stores of polysaccharides, could grow faster at pH 5.5, and could acidify the environment more rapidly and to a greater extent than the parental strain. Thus, CcpA directly modulates the pathogenic potential of S. mutans through global control of gene expression.
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.
The phosphoenolpyruvate:sugar phosphotransferase system (PTS) is the major carbohydrate transport system in oral streptococci. The mannose-PTS of Streptococcus mutans, which transports mannose and glucose, is involved in carbon catabolite repression (CCR) and regulates the expression of known virulence genes. In this study, we investigated the role of EIIGlc and EIIABMan in sugar metabolism, gene regulation, biofilm formation, and competence. The results demonstrate that the inactivation of ptsG, encoding a putative EIIGlc, did not lead to major changes in sugar metabolism or affect the phenotypes of interest. However, the loss of EIIGlc was shown to have a significant impact on the proteome and to affect the expression of a known virulence factor, fructan hydrolase (fruA). JAM1, a mutant strain lacking EIIABMan, had an impaired capacity to form biofilms in the presence of glucose and displayed a decreased ability to be transformed with exogenous DNA. Also, the lactose- and cellobiose-PTSs were positively and negatively regulated by EIIABMan, respectively. Microarrays were used to investigate the profound phenotypic changes displayed by JAM1, revealing that EIIABMan of S. mutans has a key regulatory role in energy metabolism, possibly by sensing the energy levels of the cells or the carbohydrate availability and, in response, regulating the activity of transcription factors and carbohydrate transporters.
Genetic competence appears to be important in establishment of biofilms and tolerance of environmental insults. We report here that the development of competence is controlled at multiple levels in a complex network that includes two signal-transducing two-component systems (TCS). Using Streptococcus mutans strain UA159, we demonstrate that the histidine kinase CiaH, but not the response regulator CiaR, causes a dramatic decrease in biofilm formation and in transformation efficiency. Inactivation of comE or comD had no effect on stress tolerance, but transformability of the mutants was poor and was not restored by addition of competence-stimulating peptide (CSP). Horse serum (HS) or bovine serum albumin (BSA) had no impact on transformability of any strains. Interestingly, though, the presence of HS or BSA in combination with CSP was required for efficient induction of comD, comX, and comYA, and induction was dependent on ComDE and CiaH, but not CiaR. Inactivation of comC, encoding CSP, had no impact on transformation, and CiaH was shown to be required for optimal comC expression. This study reveals that S. mutans integrates multiple environmental signals through CiaHR and ComDE to coordinate induction of com genes and that CiaH can exert its influence through CiaR and as-yet-unidentified regulators. The results highlight critical differences in the role and regulation of CiaRH and com genes in different S. mutans isolates and between S. mutans and Streptococcus pneumoniae, indicating that substantial divergence in the role and regulation of TCS and competence genes has occurred in streptococci.
Streptococcus mutans, the primary etiological agent of human dental caries, has developed multiple mechanisms to colonize and form biofilms on the tooth surface. The brpA gene codes for a predicted surface-associated protein with apparent roles in biofilm formation, autolysis, and cell division. In this study, we used two models to further characterize the biofilm-forming characteristics of a BrpA-deficient mutant, strain TW14. Compared to those of the parent strain, UA159, TW14 formed long chains and sparse microcolonies on hydroxylapatite disks but failed to accumulate and form three-dimensional biofilms when grown on glucose as the carbohydrate source. The biofilm formation defect was also readily apparent by confocal laser scanning microscopy when flow cells were used to grow biofilms. When subjected to acid killing at pH 2.8 for 45 min, the survival rate of strain TW14 was more than 1 log lower than that of the wild-type strain. TW14 was at least 3 logs more susceptible to killing by 0.2% hydrogen peroxide than was UA159. The expression of more than 200 genes was found by microarray analysis to be altered in cells lacking BrpA (P < 0.01). These results suggest that the loss of BrpA can dramatically influence the transcriptome and significantly affects the regulation of acid and oxidative stress tolerance and biofilm formation in S. mutans, which are key virulence attributes of the organism.
Trigger factor is a ribosome-associated peptidyl-prolyl cis/trans isomerase that is highly conserved in most bacteria. A gene, designated ropA, encoding an apparent trigger factor homologue, was identified in Streptococcus mutans, the primary etiological agent of human dental caries. Inactivation of ropA had no major impact on growth rate in planktonic cultures under the conditions tested, although the RopA-deficient mutant formed long chains in broth. Deficiency of RopA decreased tolerance to acid killing and to oxidative stresses induced by hydrogen peroxide and paraquat, and it reduced transformation efficiency about 200-fold. Addition of synthetic competence-stimulating peptide to the culture medium enhanced transformability of both the mutant and wild-type strains, although the ropA strain did not attain levels of competence observed for the parent. Loss of RopA decreased the capacity of S. mutans to form biofilms by over 80% when cultivated in glucose, but it increased biofilm formation by over 50% when sucrose was provided as the carbohydrate source. Western blot analysis revealed that the expression of glucosyltransferases B and D was lower in the RopA-deficient mutant. These results suggest that RopA is a key regulator of acid and oxidative stress tolerance, genetic competence, and biofilm formation, all critical virulence properties of S. mutans.
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.
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.
There are two primary levels of control of the expression of the fructanase gene (fruA) of Streptococcus mutans: induction by levan, inulin, or sucrose and repression in the presence of glucose and other readily metabolized sugars. The goals of this study were to assess the functionality of putative cis-acting regulatory elements and to begin to identify the trans-acting factors involved in induction and catabolite repression of fruA. The fruA promoter and its derivatives generated by deletions and/or site-directed mutagenesis were fused to a promoterless chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) gene as a reporter, and strains carrying the transcriptional fusions were then analyzed for CAT activities in response to growth on various carbon sources. A dyadic sequence, ATGACA(TC)TGTCAT, located at −72 to −59 relative to the transcription initiation site was shown to be essential for expression of fruA. Inactivation of the genes that encode fructose-specific enzymes II resulted in elevated expression from the fruA promoter, suggesting negative regulation of fruA expression by the fructose phosphotransferase system. Mutagenesis of a terminator-like structure located in the 165-base 5′ untranslated region of the fruA mRNA or insertional inactivation of antiterminator genes revealed that antitermination was not a mechanism controlling induction or repression of fruA, although the untranslated leader mRNA may play a role in optimal expression of fructanase. Deletion or mutation of a consensus catabolite response element alleviated glucose repression of fruA, but interestingly, inactivation of the ccpA gene had no discernible effect on catabolite repression of fruA. Accumulating data suggest that expression of fruA is regulated by a mechanism that has several unique features that distinguish it from archetypical polysaccharide catabolic operons of other gram-positive bacteria.
The polymers of fructose, levan and inulin, as well as sucrose and raffinose, are substrates for the product of the fruA gene of Streptococcus mutans GS-5. The purpose of this study was to characterize the DNA immediately flanking fruA, to explore the regulation of expression of fruA by the carbohydrate source, and to begin to elucidate the molecular basis for differential expression of the gene. Located 3′ to fruA was an open reading frame (ORF) with similarity to β-fructosidases which was cotranscribed with fruA. A transcriptional initiation site, located an appropriate distance from an extended −10-like promoter, was mapped at 165 bp 5′ to the fruA structural gene. By the use of computer algorithms, two overlapping, stable stem-loop sequences with the potential to function as rho-independent terminators were found in the 5′ untranslated region. Catabolite response elements (CREs), which have been shown to govern carbon catabolite repression (CCR) by functioning as negative cis elements in gram-positive bacteria, were located close to the promoter. The levels of production of fruA mRNA and FruA were elevated in cells growing on levan, inulin, or sucrose as the sole carbohydrate source, and repression was observed when cells were grown on readily metabolizable hexoses. Deletion derivatives containing fusions of fruA promoter regions, lacking sequences 5′ or 3′ to the promoter, and a promoterless chloramphenicol acetyltransferase gene were used (i) to demonstrate the functionality of the promoter mapped by primer extension, (ii) to demonstrate that CCR of the fru operon requires the CRE that is located 3′ to the promoter region, and (iii) to provide preliminary evidence that supports the involvement of an antitermination mechanism in fruA induction.