Streptococcus mutans, the primary causative agent of dental caries, contains two paralogues of the LytR-CpsA-Psr family proteins encoded by brpA and psr, respectively. Previous studies have shown that BrpA plays an important role in cell envelope biogenesis/homeostasis and affects stress responses and biofilm formation by Strep. mutans, traits critical to cariogenicity of this bacterium. In this study, a Psr-deficient mutant, TW251, was constructed. Characterization of TW251 showed that deficiency of Psr did not have any major impact on growth rate. However, when subjected to acid killing at pH 2.8, the survival rate of TW251 was decreased dramatically compared with the parent strain UA159. In addition, TW251 also displayed major defects in biofilm formation, especially during growth with sucrose. When compared to UA159, the biofilms of TW251 were mainly planar and devoid of extracellular glucans. Real-time-PCR and Western blot analyses revealed that deficiency of Psr significantly decreased the expression of glucosyltransferase C, a protein known to play a major role in biofilm formation by Strep. mutans. Transmission electron microscopy analysis showed that deficiency of BrpA caused alterations in cell envelope and cell division, and the most significant defects were observed in TW314, a Psr-deficient and BrpA-down mutant. No such effects were observed with Psr mutant TW251 under similar conditions. These results suggest that while there are similarities in functions between BrpA and Psr, distinctive differences also exist between these two paralogues. Like Bacillus subtilis but different from Staphylococcus aureus, a functional BrpA or Psr is required for viability in Strep. mutans.
The stringent response (SR), mediated by the alarmone (p)ppGpp, is a conserved bacterial adaptation system controlling broad metabolic alterations necessary for survival under adverse conditions. In Enterococcus faecalis, production of (p)ppGpp is controlled by the bifunctional protein RSH (for “Rel SpoT homologue”; also known as RelA) and by the monofunctional synthetase RelQ. Previous characterization of E. faecalis strains lacking rsh, relQ, or both revealed that RSH is responsible for activation of the SR and that alterations in (p)ppGpp production negatively impact bacterial stress survival and virulence. Despite its well-characterized role as the effector of the SR, the significance of (p)ppGpp during balanced growth remains poorly understood. Microarrays of E. faecalis strains producing different basal amounts of (p)ppGpp identified several genes and pathways regulated by modest changes in (p)ppGpp. Notably, expression of numerous genes involved in energy generation were induced in the ∆rsh ∆relQ [(p)ppGpp0] strain, suggesting that a lack of basal (p)ppGpp places the cell in a “transcriptionally relaxed” state. Alterations in the fermentation profile and increased production of H2O2 in the (p)ppGpp0 strain substantiate the observed transcriptional changes. We confirm that, similar to what is seen in Bacillus subtilis, (p)ppGpp directly inhibits the activity of enzymes involved in GTP biosynthesis, and complete loss of (p)ppGpp leads to dysregulation of GTP homeostasis. Finally, we show that the association of (p)ppGpp with antibiotic survival does not relate to the SR but rather relates to basal (p)ppGpp pools. Collectively, this study highlights the critical but still underappreciated role of basal (p)ppGpp pools under balanced growth conditions.
Drug-resistant bacterial infections continue to pose a significant public health threat by limiting therapeutic options available to care providers. The stringent response (SR), mediated by the accumulation of two modified guanine nucleotides collectively known as (p)ppGpp, is a highly conserved stress response that broadly remodels bacterial physiology to a survival state. Given the strong correlation of the SR with the ability of bacteria to survive antibiotic treatment and the direct association of (p)ppGpp production with bacterial infectivity, understanding how bacteria produce and utilize (p)ppGpp may reveal potential targets for the development of new antimicrobial therapies. Using the multidrug-resistant pathogen Enterococcus faecalis as a model, we show that small alterations to (p)ppGpp levels, well below concentrations needed to trigger the SR, severely affected bacterial metabolism and antibiotic survival. Our findings highlight the often-underappreciated contribution of basal (p)ppGpp levels to metabolic balance and stress tolerance in bacteria.
Enterococcus faecalis is an opportunistic nosocomial pathogen that is highly resistant to a variety of environmental insults, including an intrinsic tolerance to antimicrobials that target the cell wall (CW). With the goal of determining the CW-stress stimulon of E. faecalis, the global transcriptional profile of E. faecalis OG1RF exposed to ampicillin, bacitracin, cephalotin or vancomycin was obtained via microarrays. Exposure to the β-lactams ampicillin and cephalotin resulted in the fewest transcriptional changes with 50 and 192 genes differentially expressed 60 min after treatment, respectively. On the other hand, treatment with bacitracin or vancomycin for 60 min affected the expression of, respectively, 377 and 297 genes. Despite the differences in the total number of genes affected, all antibiotics induced a very similar gene expression pattern with an overrepresentation of genes encoding hypothetical proteins, followed by genes encoding proteins associated with cell envelope metabolism as well as transport and binding proteins. In particular, all drug treatments, most notably bacitracin and vancomycin, resulted in an apparent metabolic downshift based on the repression of genes involved in translation, energy metabolism, transport and binding. Only 19 genes were up-regulated by all conditions at both the 30 and 60 min time points. Among those 19 genes, 4 genes encoding hypothetical proteins (EF0026, EF0797, EF1533 and EF3245) were inactivated and the respective mutant strains characterized in relation to antibiotic tolerance and virulence in the Galleria mellonella model. The phenotypes obtained for two of these mutants, ΔEF1533 and ΔEF3245, support further characterization of these genes as potential candidates for the development of novel preventive or therapeutic approaches.
High coverage, whole genome shotgun (WGS) sequencing of 57 geographically- and genetically-diverse isolates of Streptococcus mutans from individuals of known dental caries status was recently completed. Of the 57 sequenced strains, fifteen isolates, were selected based primarily on differences in gene content and phenotypic characteristics known to affect virulence and compared with the reference strain UA159. A high degree of variability in these properties was observed between strains, with a broad spectrum of sensitivities to low pH, oxidative stress (air and paraquat) and exposure to competence stimulating peptide (CSP). Significant differences in autolytic behavior and in biofilm development in glucose or sucrose were also observed. Natural genetic competence varied among isolates, and this was correlated to the presence or absence of competence genes, comCDE and comX, and to bacteriocins. In general strains that lacked the ability to become competent possessed fewer genes for bacteriocins and immunity proteins or contained polymorphic variants of these genes. WGS sequence analysis of the pan-genome revealed, for the first time, components of a Type VII secretion system in several S. mutans strains, as well as two putative ORFs that encode possible collagen binding proteins located upstream of the cnm gene, which is associated with host cell invasiveness. The virulence of these particular strains was assessed in a wax-worm model. This is the first study to combine a comprehensive analysis of key virulence-related phenotypes with extensive genomic analysis of a pathogen that evolved closely with humans. Our analysis highlights the phenotypic diversity of S. mutans isolates and indicates that the species has evolved a variety of adaptive strategies to persist in the human oral cavity and, when conditions are favorable, to initiate disease.
The ability to cope with endogenous or host-generated reactive oxygen species is considered a key virulence attribute of the opportunistic pathogen Enterococcus faecalis, a leading cause of hospital-acquired infections. In this study, we used in silico and mutational analyses to identify and characterize the role of the Spx global regulator in oxidative stress tolerance and virulence in E. faecalis. While the Δspx strain grew as well as the wild-type strain under anaerobic conditions, the mutant strain exhibited impaired growth under aerobic conditions and was highly sensitive to oxidative stress agents. The spx mutant strain was also sensitive to a variety of other stressful conditions, including antibiotic stress and killing by the mouse-derived macrophage cell line J774. Using a murine model of foreign body-associated peritonitis, we demonstrated that the ability of the Δspx strain to colonize the peritoneum and disseminate in the bloodstream was significantly reduced compared to that of the parent strain. Transcriptional analysis revealed that a large number of known oxidative stress genes are under positive control by Spx. Collectively, our results show that Spx is a major stress gene regulator and is implicated in the pathophysiology of E. faecalis. The relationship of Spx to other oxidative stress regulators is also discussed.
The ClpXP proteolytic complex is critical for maintaining cellular homeostasis, as well as expression of virulence properties. However, with the exception of the Spx global regulator, the molecular mechanisms by which the ClpXP complex exerts its influence in Streptococcus mutans are not well understood. Here, microarray analysis was used to provide novel insights into the scope of ClpXP proteolysis in S. mutans. In a ΔclpP strain, 288 genes showed significant changes in relative transcript amounts (P≤0.001, twofold cut-off) as compared with the parent. Similarly, 242 genes were differentially expressed by a ΔclpX strain, 113 (47 %) of which also appeared in the ΔclpP microarrays. Several genes associated with cell growth were downregulated in both mutants, consistent with the slow-growth phenotype of the Δclp strains. Among the upregulated genes were those encoding enzymes required for the biosynthesis of intracellular polysaccharides (glg genes) and malolactic fermentation (mle genes). Enhanced expression of glg and mle genes in ΔclpP and ΔclpX strains correlated with increased storage of intracellular polysaccharide and enhanced malolactic fermentation activity, respectively. Expression of several genes known or predicted to be involved in competence and mutacin production was downregulated in the Δclp strains. Follow-up transformation efficiency and deferred antagonism assays validated the microarray data by showing that competence and mutacin production were dramatically impaired in the Δclp strains. Collectively, our results reveal the broad scope of ClpXP regulation in S. mutans homeostasis and identify several virulence-related traits that are influenced by ClpXP proteolysis.
Streptococcus mutans is considered the primary etiologic agent of dental caries, a global health problem that affects 60 to 90% of the population, and a leading causative agent of infective endocarditis. It can be divided into four different serotypes (c, e, f, and k), with serotype c strains being the most common in the oral cavity. In this study, we demonstrate that in addition to OMZ175 and B14, three other strains (NCTC11060, LM7, and OM50E) of the less prevalent serotypes e and f are able to invade primary human coronary artery endothelial cells (HCAEC). Invasive strains were also significantly more virulent than noninvasive strains in the Galleria mellonella (greater wax worm) model of systemic disease. Interestingly, the invasive strains carried an additional gene, cnm, which was previously shown to bind to collagen and laminin in vitro. Inactivation of cnm rendered the organisms unable to invade HCAEC and attenuated their virulence in G. mellonella. Notably, the cnm knockout strains did not adhere to HCAEC as efficiently as the parental strains did, indicating that the loss of the invasion phenotype observed for the mutants was linked to an adhesion defect. Comparisons of the invasive strains and their respective cnm mutants did not support a correlation between biofilm formation and invasion. Thus, Cnm is required for S. mutans invasion of endothelial cells and possibly represents an important virulence factor of S. mutans that may contribute to cardiovascular infections and pathologies.
Streptococcus mutans and Streptococcus sobrinus are considered the primary organisms responsible for human dental caries. The ability to generate acids and to adapt to low pH conditions is directly associated with the cariogenic potential of these bacteria. To survive acidic conditions, both species have been shown to mount an acid tolerance response (ATR). However, previous characterization of the S. sobrinus ATR identified critical differences in the mechanisms of acid adaptation between S. mutans and S. sobrinus. Here, interspecies microarray and proteomic approaches were used to identify novel, previously unrecognized genes and pathways that participate in the S. sobrinus acid stress response. The results revealed that, among other things, metabolic alterations that enhance energy generation and upregulation of the malolactic fermentation enzyme activity constitute important acid resistance properties in S. sobrinus. Some of these acid adaptive traits are shared by S. mutans and might be considered optimal targets for therapeutic treatments designed to control dental caries.
caries; mutans streptococci; acid stress; mleS
The oral cavity harbors several hundred different bacterial species that colonize both hard (teeth) and soft tissues, forming complex populations known as microbial biofilms. It is widely accepted that the phenotypic characteristics of bacteria grown in biofilms are substantially different from those grown in suspensions. Because biofilms are the natural habitat for the great majority of oral bacteria, including those contributing to oral diseases, a better understanding of the physiology of adherent populations is clearly needed to control oral microbes in health and disease. In this chapter, we use oral streptococci as examples for studying the physiology of oral biofilms.
Biofilm; oral streptococci; Streptococcus; enzymatic assays; stress; production of polysaccharides
Previous work suggested that the underlying mechanisms by which the Streptococcus mutans ClpXP protease affects virulence traits are associated with accumulation of two orthologues of the Spx regulator, named SpxA and SpxB. Here, a thorough characterization of strains lacking the spx genes (ΔspxA, ΔspxB, and ΔspxA ΔspxB) revealed that Spx, indeed, participates in the regulation of processes associated with S. mutans pathogenesis. The ΔspxA strain displayed impaired ability to grow under acidic and oxidative stress conditions and had diminished long-term viability at low pH. Although the ΔspxB strain did not show any inherent stress-sensitive phenotype, the phenotypes observed in ΔspxA were more pronounced in the ΔspxA ΔspxB double mutant. By using two in vivo models, we demonstrate for the first time that Spx is required for virulence in a Gram-positive pathogen. Microarrays confirmed the global regulatory role of SpxA and SpxB. In particular, SpxA was shown to positively regulate genes associated with oxidative stress, a finding supported by enzymatic assays. SpxB had a secondary role in regulation of oxidative stress genes but appeared to play a larger role in controlling processes associated with cell wall homeostasis. Given the high degree of conservation between Spx proteins of low-GC Gram-positive bacteria, these results are likely to have broad implications.
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.
Mutational analysis revealed that members of the Clp system, specifically the ClpL chaperone and the ClpXP proteolytic complex, modulate the expression of important virulence attributes of Streptococcus mutans. Compared to its parent, the ΔclpL strain displayed an enhanced capacity to form biofilms in the presence of sucrose, had reduced viability, and was more sensitive to acid killing. The ΔclpP and ΔclpX strains displayed several phenotypes in common: slow growth, tendency to aggregate in culture, reduced autolysis, and reduced ability to grow under stress, including acidic pH. Unexpectedly, the ΔclpP and ΔclpX mutants were more resistant to acid killing and demonstrated enhanced viability in long-term survival assays. Biofilm formation by the ΔclpP and ΔclpX strains was impaired when grown in glucose but enhanced in sucrose. In an animal study, the average number of S. mutans colonies recovered from the teeth of rats infected with the ΔclpP or ΔclpX strain was slightly lower than that of the parent strain. In Bacillus subtilis, the accumulation of the Spx global regulator, a substrate of ClpXP, has accounted for the ΔclpXP phenotypes. Searching the S. mutans genome, we identified two putative spx genes, designated spxA and spxB. The inactivation of either of these genes bypassed phenotypes of the clpP and clpX mutants. Western blotting demonstrated that Spx accumulates in the ΔclpP and ΔclpX strains. Our results reveal that the proteolysis of ClpL and ClpXP plays a role in the expression of key virulence traits of S. mutans and indicates that the underlying mechanisms by which ClpXP affect virulence traits are associated with the accumulation of two Spx orthologues.
The stringent response is a global bacterial response to stress that is mediated by accumulation of the alarmone (p)ppGpp. In this study, treatment with mupirocin was shown to induce high levels of (p)ppGpp production in Enterococcus faecalis, indicating that this nosocomial pathogen can mount a classic stringent response. In addition, (p)ppGpp was found to accumulate in cells subjected to heat shock, alkaline shock, and inhibitory concentrations of vancomycin. Sequence analysis of the E. faecalis genome indicated that (p)ppGpp synthesis is catalyzed by the bifunctional synthetase/hydrolase RelA and the RelQ small synthase. The (p)ppGpp profiles of ΔrelA, ΔrelQ, and ΔrelAQ strains revealed that RelA is the major enzyme responsible for the accumulation of (p)ppGpp during antibiotic or physical stresses, while RelQ appears to be responsible for maintaining basal levels of alarmone during homeostatic growth. Compared to its parent, the ΔrelA strain was more susceptible to several stress conditions, whereas complete elimination of (p)ppGpp in a ΔrelAQ double mutant restored many of the stress-sensitive phenotypes of ΔrelA. Interestingly, growth curves and time-kill studies indicated that tolerance to vancomycin is enhanced in the ΔrelA strain but diminished in the ΔrelQ and ΔrelAQ strains. Finally, virulence of the ΔrelAQ strain but not of the ΔrelA or ΔrelQ strain was significantly attenuated in the Caenorhabditis elegans model. Taken together, these results indicate that (p)ppGpp pools modulate environmental stress responses, vancomycin tolerance, and virulence in this important nosocomial pathogen.
The RelA, RelP, and RelQ enzymes are responsible for the production of the alarmone (p)ppGpp in Streptococcus mutans. A strain lacking all three synthetases (ΔrelAPQ) does not grow in minimal medium lacking the branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) leucine or valine but grows well if isoleucine is also omitted. Here, we investigated whether there was a correlation between growth in the absence of leucine and valine with (p)ppGpp pools and the activation of CodY. By using a combination of single, double, and triple mutants lacking the (p)ppGpp synthetase enzymes, we demonstrated that the ability to grow in the absence of leucine or valine required basal levels of (p)ppGpp production by RelP and RelQ. The introduction of a codY mutation into the ΔrelAPQ strain fully restored growth in medium lacking leucine or valine, revealing that the growth-defective phenotype of ΔrelAPQ was directly linked to CodY. Lowering GTP levels through the addition of decoyinine did not alleviate CodY repression or affect the expression of genes involved in BCAA biosynthesis, suggesting that S. mutans CodY is not activated by GTP. The results of phenotypic studies revealed that the codY mutant had a reduced capacity to form biofilms and that its growth was more sensitive to low pH, showing a role for CodY in two key virulence properties of S. mutans. Microarray results revealed the extent of the CodY regulon. Notably, the identification of putative CodY-binding boxes upstream of genes that were downregulated in the codY mutant indicates that CodY may also function as a transcriptional activator in S. mutans.
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.
The production of (p)ppGpp by Streptococcus mutans UA159 is catalyzed by three gene products: RelA, RelP, and RelQ. Here, we investigate the role of the RelA (Rel) homologue of S. mutans in the stringent response and in the global control of gene expression. RelA of S. mutans was shown to synthesize pppGpp in vitro from GTP and ATP in the absence of added ribosomes, as well as in vivo in an Escherichia coli relA-spoT mutant. Mupirocin (MUP) was shown to induce high levels of (p)ppGpp production in S. mutans in a relA-dependent manner, with a concomitant reduction in GTP pools. Transcription profiling after MUP treatment of S. mutans revealed that 104 genes were upregulated and 130 were downregulated (P ≤ 0.001); mainly, genes for macromolecular biosynthesis, translation, and energy metabolism were downregulated. When a derivative of UA159 carrying a complete deletion of the relA gene was treated with MUP, 72 genes were upregulated and 52 were downregulated (P ≤ 0.001). The expression of 50 genes (P ≤ 0.001) was commonly affected by MUP treatment in the two strains, suggesting that S. mutans can mount a relA-independent response to MUP. Consistent with the gene expression profiling, RelA was shown to play major roles in the regulation of phenotypic traits that are required for establishment, persistence, and virulence expression by this oral pathogen. Thus, RelA is the major (p)ppGpp synthase controlling the stringent response in S. mutans, and it coordinates the expression of genes and phenotypes that contribute to the pathogenic potential of the organism.
Previously, we presented evidence that the oral cariogenic species Streptococcus mutans remains viable but physiologically impaired and sensitive to environmental stress when genes encoding the minimal conserved bacterial signal recognition particle (SRP) elements are inactivated. Two-dimensional gel electrophoresis of isolated membrane fractions from strain UA159 and three mutants (Δffh, ΔscRNA, and ΔftsY) grown at pH 7.0 or pH 5.0 allowed us to obtain insight into the adaptation process and the identities of potential SRP substrates. Mutant membrane preparations contained increased amounts of the chaperones DnaK and GroES and ClpP protease but decreased amounts of transcription- and translation-related proteins, the β subunit of ATPase, HPr, and several metabolic and glycolytic enzymes. Therefore, the acid sensitivity of SRP mutants might be caused in part by diminished ATPase activity, as well as the absence of an efficient mechanism for supplying ATP quickly at the site of proton elimination. Decreased amounts of LuxS were also observed in all mutant membranes. To further define physiological changes that occur upon disruption of the SRP pathway, we studied global gene expression in S. mutans UA159 (parent strain) and AH333 (Δffh mutant) using microarray analysis. Transcriptome analysis revealed up-regulation of 81 genes, including genes encoding chaperones, proteases, cell envelope biosynthetic enzymes, and DNA repair and replication enzymes, and down-regulation of 35 genes, including genes concerned with competence, ribosomal proteins, and enzymes involved in amino acid and protein biosynthesis. Quantitative real-time reverse transcription-PCR analysis of eight selected genes confirmed the microarray data. Consistent with a demonstrated defect in competence and the suggested impairment of LuxS-dependent quorum sensing, biofilm formation was significantly decreased in each SRP mutant.
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.
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.
Streptococcus mutans and Streptococcus sobrinus are the bacteria most commonly associated with human dental caries. A major virulence attribute of these and other cariogenic bacteria is acid tolerance. The acid tolerance mechanisms of S. mutans have begun to be investigated in detail, including the adaptive acid tolerance response (ATR), but this is not the case for S. sobrinus. An analysis of the ATR of two S. sobrinus strains was conducted with cells grown to steady state in continuous chemostat cultures. Compared with cells grown at neutral pH, S. sobrinus cells grown at pH 5.0 showed an increased resistance to acid killing and were able to drive down the pH through glycolysis to lower values. Unlike what is found for S. mutans, the enhanced acid tolerance and glycolytic capacities of acid-adapted S. sobrinus were not due to increased F-ATPase activities. Interestingly though, S. sobrinus cells grown at pH 5.0 had twofold more glucose phosphoenolpyruvate:sugar phosphotransferase system (PTS) activity than cells grown at pH 7.0. In contrast, glucose PTS activity was actually higher in S. mutans grown at pH 7.0 than in cells grown at pH 5.0. Silver staining of two-dimensional gels of whole-cell lysates of S. sobrinus 6715 revealed that at least 9 proteins were up-regulated and 22 proteins were down-regulated in pH 5.0-grown cells compared with cells grown at pH 7.0. Our results demonstrate that S. sobrinus is capable of mounting an ATR but that there are critical differences between the mechanisms of acid adaptation used by S. sobrinus and S. mutans.
The galK gene, encoding galactokinase of the Leloir pathway, was insertionally inactivated in Streptococcus mutans UA159. The galK knockout strain displayed only marginal growth on galactose, but growth on glucose or lactose was not affected. In strain UA159, the sugar phosphotransferase system (PTS) for lactose and the PTS for galactose were induced by growth in lactose and galactose, although galactose PTS activity was very low, suggesting that S. mutans does not have a galactose-specific PTS and that the lactose PTS may transport galactose, albeit poorly. To determine if the galactose growth defect of the galK mutant could be overcome by enhancing lactose PTS activity, the gene encoding a putative repressor of the operon for lactose PTS and phospho-β-galactosidase, lacR, was insertionally inactivated. A galK and lacR mutant still could not grow on galactose, although the strain had constitutively elevated lactose PTS activity. The glucose PTS activity of lacR mutants grown in glucose was lower than in the wild-type strain, revealing an influence of LacR or the lactose PTS on the regulation of the glucose PTS. Mutation of the lacA gene of the tagatose pathway caused impaired growth in lactose and galactose, suggesting that galactose can only be efficiently utilized when both the Leloir and tagatose pathways are functional. A mutation of the permease in the multiple sugar metabolism operon did not affect growth on galactose. Thus, the galactose permease of S. mutans is not present in the gal, lac, or msm operons.
The phosphoenolpyruvate:sugar phosphotransferase system (PTS) is the major sugar uptake system in oral streptococci. The role of EIIABMan (encoded by manL) in gene regulation and sugar transport was investigated in Streptococcus mutans UA159. The manL knockout strain, JAM1, grew more slowly than the wild-type strain in glucose but grew faster in mannose and did not display diauxic growth, indicating that EIIABMan is involved in sugar uptake and in carbohydrate catabolite repression. PTS assays of JAM1, and of strains lacking the inducible (fruI) and constitutive (fruCD) EII fructose, revealed that S. mutans EIIABMan transported mannose and glucose and provided evidence that there was also a mannose-inducible or glucose-repressible mannose PTS. Additionally, there appears to be a fructose PTS that is different than FruI and FruCD. To determine whether EIIABMan controlled expression of the known virulence genes, glucosyltransferases (gtfBC) and fructosyltransferase (ftf) promoter fusions of these genes were established in the wild-type and EIIABMan-deficient strains. In the manL mutant, the level of chloramphenicol acetyltransferase activity expressed from the gtfBC promoter was up to threefold lower than that seen with the wild-type strain at pH 6 and 7, indicating that EIIABMan is required for optimal expression of gtfBC. No significant differences were observed between the mutant and the wild-type background in ftf regulation, with the exception that under glucose-limiting conditions at pH 7, the mutant exhibited a 2.1-fold increase in ftf expression. Two-dimensional gel analysis of batch-grown cells of the EIIABMan-deficient strain indicated that the expression of at least 38 proteins was altered compared to that seen with the wild-type strain, revealing that EIIABMan has a pleiotropic effect on gene expression.