In this study of human polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMNs), pretreatment with Treponema denticola major outer sheath protein (Msp) inhibited formyl-methionyl-leucyl-phenylalanine (fMLP)-induced chemotaxis, phagocytosis of immunoglobulin G-coated microspheres, fMLP-stimulated calcium transients, and actin assembly. Msp neither altered oxidative responses to phorbol myristate or fMLP nor induced apoptosis. Msp selectively impairs chemotaxis and phagocytosis by impacting the PMN cytoskeleton.
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.
Streptococcus mutans is one of the best-known biofilm-forming organisms associated with humans. We investigated the role of the sortase gene (srtA) in monospecies biofilm formation and observed that inactivation of srtA caused a decrease in biofilm formation. Genes encoding three putative sortase-dependent proteins were also found to be up-regulated in biofilms versus planktonic cells and mutations in these genes resulted in reduced biofilm biomass.
Treponema denticola and its major outer sheath protein (Msp) induce actin reorganization in fibroblasts. We adapted a barbed-end labeling/imaging assay to monitor Msp-induced subcortical actin filament assembly in neutrophils and fibroblasts. Msp, at an actin-reorganizing concentration, inhibited migration of these dissimilar cell types, whose cytoskeletal functions in locomotion and phagocytosis are crucial for immunity and healing of peripheral infections.
Certain oral treponemes express a highly proteolytic phenotype and have been associated with periodontal diseases. The periodontal pathogen Treponema denticola produces dentilisin, a serine protease of the subtilisin family. The two-gene operon prcA-prtP is required for expression of active dentilisin (PrtP), a putative lipoprotein attached to the treponeme's outer membrane or sheath. The purpose of this study was to examine the diversity and structure of treponemal subtilisin-like proteases in order to better understand their distribution and function. The complete sequences of five prcA-prtP operons were determined for Treponema lecithinolyticum, “Treponema vincentii,” and two canine species. Partial operon sequences were obtained for T. socranskii subsp. 04 as well as 450- to 1,000-base fragments of prtP genes from four additional treponeme strains. Phylogenetic analysis demonstrated that the sequences fall into two paralogous families. The first family includes the sequence from T. denticola. Treponemes possessing this operon family express chymotrypsin-like protease activity and can cleave the substrate N-succinyl-alanyl-alanyl-prolyl-phenylalanine-p-nitroanilide (SAAPFNA). Treponemes possessing the second paralog family do not possess chymotrypsin-like activity or cleave SAAPFNA. Despite examination of a range of protein and peptide substrates, the specificity of the second protease family remains unknown. Each of the fully sequenced prcA and prtP genes contains a 5′ hydrophobic leader sequence with a treponeme lipobox. The two paralogous families of treponeme subtilisins represent a new subgroup within the subtilisin family of proteases and are the only subtilisin lipoprotein family. The present study demonstrated that the subtilisin paralogs comprising a two-gene operon are widely distributed among treponemes.
Members of the bacterial genus Streptococcus are responsible for causing a wide variety of infections in humans. Many Streptococci use quorum-sensing systems to regulate several physiological properties, including the ability to incorporate foreign DNA, tolerate acid, form biofilms, and become virulent. These quorum-sensing systems are primarily made of small soluble signal peptides that are detected by neighboring cells via a histidine kinase/response regulator pair.
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.
In a previous study, a quorum-sensing signaling system essential for genetic competence in Streptococcus mutans was identified, characterized, and found to function optimally in biofilms (Li et al., J. Bacteriol. 183:897-908, 2001). Here, we demonstrate that this system also plays a role in the ability of S. mutans to initiate biofilm formation. To test this hypothesis, S. mutans wild-type strain NG8 and its knockout mutants defective in comC, comD, comE, and comX, as well as a comCDE deletion mutant, were assayed for their ability to initiate biofilm formation. The spatial distribution and architecture of the biofilms were examined by scanning electron microscopy and confocal scanning laser microscopy. The results showed that inactivation of any of the individual genes under study resulted in the formation of an abnormal biofilm. The comC mutant, unable to produce or secrete a competence-stimulating peptide (CSP), formed biofilms with altered architecture, whereas the comD and comE mutants, which were defective in sensing and responding to the CSP, formed biofilms with reduced biomass. Exogenous addition of the CSP and complementation with a plasmid containing the wild-type comC gene into the cultures restored the wild-type biofilm architecture of comC mutants but showed no effect on the comD, comE, or comX mutant biofilms. The fact that biofilms formed by comC mutants differed from the comD, comE, and comX mutant biofilms suggested that multiple signal transduction pathways were affected by CSP. Addition of synthetic CSP into the culture medium or introduction of the wild-type comC gene on a shuttle vector into the comCDE deletion mutant partially restored the wild-type biofilm architecture and further supported this idea. We conclude that the quorum-sensing signaling system essential for genetic competence in S. mutans is important for the formation of biofilms by this gram-positive organism.
Streptococcus mutans normally colonizes dental biofilms and is regularly exposed to continual cycles of acidic pH during ingestion of fermentable dietary carbohydrates. The ability of S. mutans to survive at low pH is an important virulence factor in the pathogenesis of dental caries. Despite a few studies of the acid adaptation mechanism of this organism, little work has focused on the acid tolerance of S. mutans growing in high-cell-density biofilms. It is unknown whether biofilm growth mode or high cell density affects acid adaptation by S. mutans. This study was initiated to examine the acid tolerance response (ATR) of S. mutans biofilm cells and to determine the effect of cell density on the induction of acid adaptation. S. mutans BM71 cells were first grown in broth cultures to examine acid adaptation associated with growth phase, cell density, carbon starvation, and induction by culture filtrates. The cells were also grown in a chemostat-based biofilm fermentor for biofilm formation. Adaptation of biofilm cells to low pH was established in the chemostat by the acid generated from excess glucose metabolism, followed by a pH 3.5 acid shock for 3 h. Both biofilm and planktonic cells were removed to assay percentages of survival. The results showed that S. mutans BM71 exhibited a log-phase ATR induced by low pH and a stationary-phase acid resistance induced by carbon starvation. Cell density was found to modulate acid adaptation in S. mutans log-phase cells, since pre-adapted cells at a higher cell density or from a dense biofilm displayed significantly higher resistance to the killing pH than the cells at a lower cell density. The log-phase ATR could also be induced by a neutralized culture filtrate collected from a low-pH culture, suggesting that the culture filtrate contained an extracellular induction component(s) involved in acid adaptation in S. mutans. Heat or proteinase treatment abolished the induction by the culture filtrate. The results also showed that mutants defective in the comC, -D, or -E genes, which encode a quorum sensing system essential for cell density-dependent induction of genetic competence, had a diminished log-phase ATR. Addition of synthetic competence stimulating peptide (CSP) to the comC mutant restored the ATR. This study demonstrated that cell density and biofilm growth mode modulated acid adaptation in S. mutans, suggesting that optimal development of acid adaptation in this organism involves both low pH induction and cell-cell communication.
Streptococcus mutans is a bacterium that has evolved to be dependent upon a biofilm “lifestyle” for survival and persistence in its natural ecosystem, dental plaque. We initiated this study to identify the genes involved in the development of genetic competence in S. mutans and to assay the natural genetic transformability of biofilm-grown cells. Using genomic analyses, we identified a quorum-sensing peptide pheromone signaling system similar to those previously found in other streptococci. The genetic locus of this system comprises three genes, comC, comD, and comE, that encode a precursor to the peptide competence factor, a histidine kinase, and a response regulator, respectively. We deduced the sequence of comC and its active pheromone product and chemically synthesized the corresponding 21-amino-acid competence-stimulating peptide (CSP). Addition of CSP to noncompetent cells facilitated increased transformation frequencies, with typically 1% of the total cell population transformed. To further confirm the roles of these genes in genetic competence, we inactivated them by insertion-duplication mutagenesis or allelic replacement followed by assays of transformation efficiency. We also demonstrated that biofilm-grown S. mutans cells were transformed at a rate 10- to 600-fold higher than planktonic S. mutans cells. Donor DNA included a suicide plasmid, S. mutans chromosomal DNA harboring a heterologous erythromycin resistance gene, and a replicative plasmid. The cells were optimally transformed during the formation of 8- to 16-h-old biofilms primarily consisting of microcolonies on solid surfaces. We also found that dead cells in the biofilms could act as donors of a chromosomally encoded antibiotic resistance determinant. This work demonstrated that a peptide pheromone system controls genetic competence in S. mutans and that the system functions optimally when the cells are living in actively growing biofilms.
Periodontitis, a prime cause of tooth loss in humans, is implicated in the increased risk of systemic diseases such as heart failure, stroke, and bacterial pneumonia. The mechanisms by which periodontitis and antibacterial immunity lead to alveolar bone and tooth loss are poorly understood. To study the human immune response to specific periodontal infections, we transplanted human peripheral blood lymphocytes (HuPBLs) from periodontitis patients into NOD/SCID mice. Oral challenge of HuPBL-NOD/SCID mice with Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans, a well-known Gram-negative anaerobic microorganism that causes human periodontitis, activates human CD4+ T cells in the periodontium and triggers local alveolar bone destruction. Human CD4+ T cells, but not CD8+ T cells or B cells, are identified as essential mediators of alveolar bone destruction. Stimulation of CD4+ T cells by A. actinomycetemcomitans induces production of osteoprotegerin ligand (OPG-L), a key modulator of osteoclastogenesis and osteoclast activation. In vivo inhibition of OPG-L function with the decoy receptor OPG diminishes alveolar bone destruction and reduces the number of periodontal osteoclasts after microbial challenge. These data imply that the molecular explanation for alveolar bone destruction observed in periodontal infections is mediated by microorganism-triggered induction of OPG-L expression on CD4+ T cells and the consequent activation of osteoclasts. Inhibition of OPG-L may thus have therapeutic value to prevent alveolar bone and/or tooth loss in human periodontitis.
This article may have been published online in advance of the print edition. The date of publication is available from the JCI website, http://www.jci.org. J. Clin. Invest. 106:R59–R67 (2000).
Human gingival fibroblasts (HGFs) degrade collagen fibrils in physiological processes by phagocytosis. Since Treponema denticola outer membrane (OM) extract perturbs actin filaments, important structures in phagocytosis, we determined whether the OM affects collagen phagocytosis in vitro by HGFs. Phagocytosis was measured by flow cytometric assessment of internalized collagen-coated fluorescent latex beads. Confluent HGFs pretreated with T. denticola ATCC 35405 OM exhibited an increase in the percentage of collagen phagocytic cells (phagocytosis index [PI]) and in the number of beads per phagocytosing cell (phagocytic capacity [PC]) compared with untreated controls. The enhancement was swift (within 15 min) and was still evident after 1 day. PI and PC of HGFs for bovine serum albumin (BSA)-coated beads were also increased, indicating a global increase in phagocytic processes. These results contrasted those for control OM from Veillonella atypica ATCC 17744, which decreased phagocytosis. The T. denticola OM-induced increase in bead uptake was eliminated by heating the OM and by depolymerization of actin filaments by cytochalasin D treatment of HGFs. Fluid-phase accumulation of lucifer yellow was enhanced in a saturable, concentration-dependent, transient manner by the T. denticola OM. Our findings were not due to HGF detachment or cytotoxicity in response to the T. denticola OM treatment since the HGFs exhibited minimal detachment from the substratum; they did not take up propidium iodide; and there was no change in their size, granularity, or content of sub-G1 DNA. We conclude that a heat-sensitive component(s) in T. denticola OM extract stimulates collagen phagocytosis and other endocytic processes such as nonspecific phagocytosis and pinocytosis by HGFs.
Treponema denticola is a cultivable oral spirochete which perturbs the cytoskeleton in cultured cells of oral origin, but intracellular signalling pathways by which it affects actin assembly are largely unknown. As the outer membrane (OM) of Treponema denticola disrupts actin-dependent processes that normally require precise control of intracellular calcium, we studied the effects of an OM extract on internal calcium release, ligand-gated and calcium release-activated calcium channels, and related mechanosensitive cation fluxes in human gingival fibroblasts (HGF). Single-cell ratio fluorimetry demonstrated that in resting cells loaded with Fura-2, baseline intracellular Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]i) was not affected by treatment with OM extract, but normal spontaneous [Ca2+]i oscillations were dramatically increased in frequency for 20 to 30 min followed by complete blockade. OM extract inhibited ATP-induced and thapsigargin-induced release of calcium from intracellular stores by 40 and 30%, respectively. Addition of Ca2+ to the extracellular pool following depletion of intracellular Ca2+ by thapsigargin and extracellular Ca2+ by EGTA yielded 59% less replenishment of [Ca2+]i in OM extract-treated than in control HGF. In cells loaded with collagen-coated ferric oxide beads to stimulate integrin-dependent calcium release, baseline [Ca2+]i was nearly doubled but was not significantly different in control and OM extract-treated cells. Magnetically generated tensile forces on the beads induced >300% increases of [Ca2+]i above baseline. Cells preincubated with OM extract exhibited dose-dependent and time-dependent reductions in stretch-induced [Ca2+]i transients, which were due to neither loss of beads from the cells nor cell death. The T. denticola OM inhibitory activity was eliminated by heating the OM extract to 60°C and by boiling but not by phenylmethylsulfonyl fluoride treatment. Thus nonlipopolysaccharide, nonchymotrypsin, heat-sensitive protein(s) in T. denticola OM can evidently inhibit both release of calcium from internal stores and uptake of calcium through the plasma membrane, possibly by interference with calcium release-activated channels.
Previous reports have shown that Treponema denticola causes rearrangement of filamentous actin (F-actin) in human gingival fibroblasts (HGF). The purpose of this investigation was to determine the effect of T. denticola on the generation of inositol phosphates (IPs) in relation to a time course for F-actin disruption in HGF. Cultured HGF were exposed to washed cells of T. denticola ATCC 35405 for 140 min. Changes in the fluorescence intensity of rhodamine-phalloidin-labeled F-actin in serial optical sections of single HGF were quantified by confocal microscopy image analysis. The percentage of cells with stress fiber disruption was also determined by fluorescence microscopy. Challenge with T. denticola caused a significant reduction in F-actin within the first hour, especially at the expense of F-actin in the ventral third of the cells, and a significant increase in the percentage of HGF with altered stress fiber patterns. Significant concentration-dependent disruption of stress fibers was also caused by HGF exposure to a Triton X-100 extract of T. denticola outer membrane (OM). IPs were measured by a radiotracer assay based on the incorporation of myo-[3H]inositol into IPs in HGF incubated with LiCl to inhibit endogenous phosphatases. HGF challenge with several strains of T. denticola and the OM extract of T. denticola ATCC 35405 resulted in a diminished accumulation of radiolabeled IPs relative to both 15 and 1% fetal bovine serum, which served as strongly positive and background control agonists, respectively. The significantly diminished IP response to T. denticola ATCC 35405 occurred within 60 min, concomitant with significant reduction of total F-actin and disruption of stress fibers. Pretreatment with the proteinase inhibitor phenylmethylsulfonyl fluoride, which had previously been found to block T. denticola’s degradation of endogenous fibronectin and detachment of HGF from the extracellular matrix, had little effect on F-actin stress fiber disruption and the IP response. Therefore, in addition to its major surface chymotrypsin-like properties, T. denticola expresses cytopathogenic activities that diminish the generation of IPs during the time course associated with significant cytoskeletal disruption in fibroblasts.
Virulent M protein-containing strains of Streptococcus pyogenes were found to adhere well to human pharyngeal cells in vitro. In contrast, an avirulent M - strain and an enteropathogenic Escherichia coli strain adhered feebly. When various rat tissues were exposed to mixtures of a virulent S. pyogenes strain and an enteropathogenic E. coli strain, the relative proportions of the two pathogenic strains recovered from mucosal surfaces differed among the sites studied. S. pyogenes cells were found to adhere in higher proportions than enteropathogenic E. coli cells to the mucosal surfaces of rat tongues, whereas on surfaces of the urinary bladder, their affinities were reversed. The data indicate that bacterial adherence is influenced by the specificity of both the bacterial and epithelial surfaces, and they suggest that adherence may influence the tissue tropisms of pathogens. Early stationary-phase cells of S. pyogenes attached better to epithelial cells than did bacteria in other growth phases. The adherence of S. pyogenes cells was impaired by pretreatment with trypsin, wheat germ lipase, Tween 80, Triton X-100, sodium lauryl sulfate, heat at 56 C, anti-group A antiserum, the presence of phospholipids, and preincubation of the epithelial cells with Streptococcus salivarius cell walls. Altering the pH or treatment with ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid had no effect on the ability of S. pyogenes cells to adhere.
The major outer sheath protein (Msp) of Treponema denticola perturbs actin dynamics in fibroblasts by inducing actin reorganization, including subcortical actin filament assembly, leading to defective calcium flux, diminished integrin engagement of collagen, and retarded cell migration. Yet, its mechanisms of action are unknown. We challenged Rat-2 fibroblasts with enriched native Msp. Msp activated the small GTPases Rac1, RhoA and Ras, but not Cdc42, yet only Rac1 localized to areas of actin rearrangement. We used Rac1 dominant negative transfection and chemical inhibition of phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase (PI3K) to show that even though Rac1 activation was PI3K-dependent, neither was required for Msp-induced actin rearrangement. Actin free barbed end formation (FBE) by Msp was also PI3K-independent. Immunoblotting experiments showed that gelsolin and CapZ were released from actin filaments, whereas cofilin remained in an inactive state. Msp induced phosphatidylinositol (4,5)-bisphosphate (PIP2) formation through activation of a phosphoinositide 3-phosphatase and its recruitment to areas of actin assembly at the plasma membrane. Using a PIP2 binding peptide or lipid phosphatase inhibitor, PIP2 was shown to be required for Msp-mediated actin uncapping and FBE formation. Evidently, Msp induces actin assembly in fibroblasts by production and recruitment of PIP2 and release of the capping proteins CapZ and gelsolin from actin barbed ends.