Streptococcus mutans, a primary dental pathogen, has a remarkable capacity to scavenge nutrients from the oral biofilm for its survival. Cystine is an amino acid dimer formed by the oxidation of two cysteine residues that is required for optimal growth, whereas S. mutans modulates l-cystine uptake via two recently identified transporters designated TcyABC and TcyDEFGH, which have not been fully characterized. Using a non-polar tcyABC-deficient mutant (SmTcyABC), here we report that L-cystine uptake is drastically diminished in the mutant, whereas its ability to grow is severely impaired under l-cystine starvation conditions, relative to wild type. A substrate competition assay showed that l-cystine uptake by the TcyABC transporter was strongly inhibited by dl-cystathionine and l-djenkolic acid and moderately inhibited by S-methyl-l-cysteine and l-cysteine. Using gene expression analysis, we observed that the tcyABC operon was up-regulated under cystine starvation. TcyABC has been shown to be positively regulated by the LysR-type transcriptional regulator CysR. We identified another LysR-type transcriptional regulator that negatively regulates TcyABC with homology to the B. subtilis YtlI regulator, which we termed TcyR. Our study enhances the understanding of l-cystine uptake in S. mutans which allows survival and persistence of this pathogen in the oral biofilm.
Cystine; cysteine; transport; TcyABC; Streptococcus mutans
We have previously characterized the interactions of the response regulator ComE from Streptococcus mutans and DNA binding sites through DNase I footprinting and electrophoretic mobility shift assay analysis. Since response regulator functions are often affected by their phosphorylation state, we investigated how phosphorylation affects the biochemical function of ComE. Unlike many response regulators, we found that the phosphorylation state of ComE does not likely play a role in DNA binding affinity but rather seems to induce the formation of an oligomeric form of the protein. The role of this oligomerization state for ComE function is discussed.
The oral biofilm organism Streptococcus mutans must face numerous environmental stresses to survive in its natural habitat. Under specific stresses, S. mutans expresses the competence-stimulating peptide (CSP) pheromone known to induce autolysis and facilitate the uptake and incorporation of exogenous DNA, a process called DNA transformation. We have previously demonstrated that the CSP-induced CipB bacteriocin (mutacin V) is a major factor involved in both cellular processes. Our objective in this work was to characterize the role of CipB bacteriocin during DNA transformation. Although other bacteriocin mutants were impaired in their ability to acquire DNA under CSP-induced conditions, the ΔcipB mutant was the only mutant showing a sharp decrease in transformation efficiency. The autolysis function of CipB bacteriocin does not participate in the DNA transformation process, as factors released via lysis of a subpopulation of cells did not contribute to the development of genetic competence in the surviving population. Moreover, CipB does not seem to participate in membrane depolarization to assist passage of DNA. Microarray-based expression profiling showed that under CSP-induced conditions, CipB regulated ∼130 genes, among which are the comDE locus and comR and comX genes, encoding critical factors that influence competency development in S. mutans. We also discovered that the CipI protein conferring immunity to CipB-induced autolysis also prevented the transcriptional regulatory activity of CipB. Our data suggest that besides its role in cell lysis, the S. mutans CipB bacteriocin also functions as a peptide regulator for the transcriptional control of the competence regulon.
In Streptococcus mutans, both competence and bacteriocin production are controlled by ComC and the ComED two-component signal transduction system. Recent studies of S. mutans suggested that purified ComE binds to two 11-bp direct repeats in the nlmC-comC promoter region, where ComE activates nlmC and represses comC. In this work, quantitative binding studies and DNase I footprinting analysis were performed to calculate the equilibrium dissociation constant and further characterize the binding site of ComE. We found that ComE protects sequences inclusive of both direct repeats, has an equilibrium dissociation constant in the nanomolar range, and binds to these two direct repeats cooperatively. Furthermore, similar direct repeats were found upstream of cslAB, comED, comX, ftf, vicRKX, gtfD, gtfB, gtfC, and gbpB. Quantitative binding studies were performed on each of these sequences and showed that only cslAB has a similar specificity and high affinity for ComE as that seen with the upstream region of comC. A mutational analysis of the binding sequences showed that ComE does not require both repeats to bind DNA with high affinity, suggesting that single site sequences in the genome may be targets for ComE-mediated regulation. Based on the mutational analysis and DNase I footprinting analysis, we propose a consensus ComE binding site, TCBTAAAYSGT.
We present bacterial biogeography as sampled from the human gastrointestinal tract of four healthy subjects. This study generated >32 million paired-end sequences of bacterial 16S rRNA genes (V3 region) representing >95,000 unique operational taxonomic units (OTUs; 97% similarity clusters), with >99% Good's coverage for all samples. The highest OTU richness and phylogenetic diversity was found in the mouth samples. The microbial communities of multiple biopsy sites within the colon were highly similar within individuals and largely distinct from those in stool. Within an individual, OTU overlap among broad site definitions (mouth, stomach/duodenum, colon and stool) ranged from 32–110 OTUs, 25 of which were common to all individuals and included OTUs affiliated with Faecalibacterium prasnitzii and the TM7 phylum. This first comprehensive characterization of the abundant and rare microflora found along the healthy human digestive tract represents essential groundwork to investigate further how the human microbiome relates to health and disease.
Streptococcal competence-stimulating peptides (CSPs) were once thought to passively communicate population density in a process known classically as quorum sensing. However, recent evidence has shown that these peptides may also be inducible ‘alarmones,’ capable of conveying sophisticated messages in a population including the induction of altruistic cellular suicide under stressful conditions. We have previously characterized the alarmone response in Streptococcus mutans, a cariogenic resident of the oral flora, in which a novel bacteriocin-like peptide causes cell death in a subset of the population. Our objective in this work was to characterize the mechanism of immunity to cell death in S. mutans. Toward this goal, we have identified the conditions under which immunity is induced, and identified the regulatory system responsible for differential (and protective) expression of immunity. We also showed that CSP-induced death contributes to S. mutans biofilm formation through the release of chromosomal DNA into the extracellular matrix, providing a long sought-after mechanistic explanation for the role of CSP in S. mutans biofilm formation.
Streptococcus mutans; biofilm; extracellular DNA; peptide pheromone; autolysis
Glutamate contributes to the acid tolerance response (ATR) of many Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria, but its role in the ATR of the oral bacterium Streptococcus mutans is unknown. This study describes the discovery and characterization of a glutamate transporter operon designated glnQHMP (Smu.1519 to Smu.1522) and investigates its potential role in acid tolerance. Deletion of glnQHMP resulted in a 95% reduction in transport of radiolabeled glutamate compared to the wild-type UA159 strain. The addition of glutamate to metabolizing UA159 cells resulted in an increased production of acidic end products, whereas the glnQHMP mutant produced less lactic acid than UA159, suggesting a link between glutamate metabolism and acid production and possible acid tolerance. To investigate this possibility, we conducted a microarray analysis with glutamate and under pH 5.5 and pH 7.5 conditions which showed that expression of the glnQHMP operon was downregulated by both glutamate and mild acid. We also measured the growth kinetics of UA159 and its glnQHMP-negative derivative at pH 5.5 and found that the mutant doubled at a much slower rate than the parent strain but survived at pH 3.5 significantly better than the wild type. Taken together, these findings support the involvement of the glutamate transporter operon glnQHMP in the acid tolerance response in S. mutans.
The induction of genetic competence is a strategy used by bacteria to increase their genetic repertoire under stressful environmental conditions. Recently, Streptococcus pneumoniae has been shown to co-ordinate the uptake of transforming DNA with fratricide via increased expression of the peptide pheromone responsible for competence induction. Here, we document that environmental stress-induced expression of the peptide pheromone competence-stimulating peptide (CSP) in the oral pathogen Streptococcus mutans. We showed that CSP is involved in the stress response and determined the CSP-induced regulon in S. mutans by microarray analysis. Contrary to pneumococcus, S. mutans responds to increased concentrations of CSP by cell lysis in only a fraction of the population. We have focused on the mechanism of cell lysis and have identified a novel bacteriocin as the ‘death effector’. Most importantly, we showed that this bacteriocin causes cell death via a novel mechanism of action: intracellular action against self. We have also identified the cognate bacteriocin immunity protein, which resides in a separate unlinked genetic locus to allow its differential regulation. The role of the lytic response in S. mutans competence is also discussed. Together, these findings reveal a novel autolytic pathway in S. mutans which may be involved in the dissemination of fitness-enhancing genes in the oral biofilm.
Campylobacter jejuni is a human pathogen causing severe diarrheal disease; however, our understanding of the survival of C. jejuni during disease and transmission remains limited. Amino acid ATP binding cassette (AA-ABC) transporters in C. jejuni have been proposed as important pathogenesis factors. We have investigated a novel AA-ABC transporter system, encoded by cj0467 to cj0469, by generating targeted deletions of cj0467 (the membrane transport component) and cj0469 (the ATPase component) in C. jejuni 81-176. The analyses described here have led us to designate these genes paqP and paqQ, respectively (pathogenesis-associated glutamine [q] ABC transporter permease [P] and ATPase [Q]). We found that loss of either component resulted in amino acid uptake defects, most notably diminished glutamine uptake. Altered resistance to a series of environmental and in vivo stresses was also observed: both mutants were hyperresistant to aerobic and organic peroxide stress, and while the ΔpaqP mutant was also hyperresistant to heat and osmotic shock, the ΔpaqQ mutant was more susceptible than the wild type to the latter two stresses. The ΔpaqP and ΔpaqQ mutants also displayed a surprising but statistically significant increase in recovery from macrophages and epithelial cells in short-term intracellular survival assays. Annexin V, 4′,6-diamidino-2-phenylindole (DAPI), and Western blot analyses revealed that macrophages infected with the ΔpaqP or ΔpaqQ mutant exhibited transient but significant decreases in cell death and extracellular signal-regulated kinase-mitogen-activated protein kinase activation compared to levels in wild-type-infected cells. The ΔpaqP mutant was not defective in either short-term or longer-term mouse colonization, consistent with its increased stress survival and diminished host cell damage phenotypes. Collectively, these results demonstrate a unique correlation of an AA-ABC transporter with bacterial stress tolerances and host cell responses to pathogen infection.
The regulation of acid production in and the tolerance to low pH of the cariogenic bacterium Streptococcus mutans have garnered considerable attention since both of these properties contribute substantially to the virulence of this organism. Frequent or prolonged exposure to acid end products, mainly lactic acid, that are present following the consumption of dietary sugars erodes the dental enamel, thereby initiating dental caries. Here we report the involvement of the S. mutans VicK sensor kinase in both the acidogenicity and the aciduricity of this bacterium. When cultures were supplemented with glucose, the glycolytic rate of a VicK null mutant was significantly decreased compared to the glycolytic rate of the wild type (P < 0.05), suggesting that there was impaired acid production. Not surprisingly, the VicK deletion mutant produced less lactic acid, while an acid tolerance response assay revealed that loss of VicK significantly enhanced the survival of S. mutans (P < 0.05). Compared to the survival rates of the wild type, the survival rates of the VicK-deficient mutant were drastically increased when cultures were grown at pH 3.5 with or without preexposure to a signal pH (pH 5.5). Global transcriptional analysis using DNA microarrays and S. mutans wild-type UA159 and VicK deletion mutant strains grown at neutral and low pH values revealed that loss of VicK significantly affected expression of 89 transcripts more than twofold at pH 5.5 (P < 0.001). The affected transcripts included genes with putative functions in transport and maintenance of cell membrane integrity. While our results provide insight into the acid-inducible regulon of S. mutans, here we imply a novel role for VicK in regulating intracellular pH homeostasis in S. mutans.
Maintaining cell envelope integrity is critical for bacterial survival, including bacteria living in a complex and dynamic environment such as the human oral cavity. Streptococcus mutans, a major etiological agent of dental caries, uses two-component signal transduction systems (TCSTSs) to monitor and respond to various environmental stimuli. Previous studies have shown that the LiaSR TCSTS in S. mutans regulates virulence traits such as acid tolerance and biofilm formation. Although not examined in streptococci, homologs of LiaSR are widely disseminated in Firmicutes and function as part of the cell envelope stress response network. We describe here liaSR and its upstream liaF gene in the cell envelope stress tolerance of S. mutans strain UA159. Transcriptional analysis established liaSR as part of the pentacistronic liaFSR-ppiB-pnpB operon. A survey of cell envelope antimicrobials revealed that mutants deficient in one or all of the liaFSR genes were susceptible to Lipid II cycle interfering antibiotics and to chemicals that perturbed the cell membrane integrity. These compounds induced liaR transcription in a concentration-dependent manner. Notably, under bacitracin stress conditions, the LiaFSR signaling system was shown to induce transcription of several genes involved in membrane protein synthesis, peptidoglycan biosynthesis, envelope chaperone/proteases, and transcriptional regulators. In the absence of an inducer such as bacitracin, LiaF repressed LiaR-regulated expression, whereas supplementing cultures with bacitracin resulted in derepression of liaSR. While LiaF appears to be an integral component of the LiaSR signaling cascade, taken collectively, we report a novel role for LiaFSR in sensing cell envelope stress and preserving envelope integrity in S. mutans.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa Pa5196 produces type IV pilins modified with unusual α1,5-linked d-arabinofuranose (α1,5-d-Araf) glycans, identical to those in the lipoarabinomannan and arabinogalactan cell wall polymers from Mycobacterium spp. In this work, we identify a second strain of P. aeruginosa, PA7, capable of expressing arabinosylated pilins and use a combination of site-directed mutagenesis, electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (MS), and electron transfer dissociation MS to identify the exact sites and extent of pilin modification in strain Pa5196. Unlike previously characterized type IV pilins that are glycosylated at a single position, those from strain Pa5196 were modified at multiple sites, with modifications of αβ-loop residues Thr64 and Thr66 being important for normal pilus assembly. Trisaccharides of α1,5-d-Araf were the principal modifications at Thr64 and Thr66, with additional mono- and disaccharides identified on Ser residues within the antiparallel beta sheet region of the pilin. TfpW was hypothesized to encode the pilin glycosyltransferase based on its genetic linkage to the pilin, weak similarity to membrane-bound GT-C family glycosyltransferases (which include the Mycobacterium arabinosyltransferases EmbA/B/C), and the presence of characteristic motifs. Loss of TfpW or mutation of key residues within the signature GT-C glycosyltransferase motif completely abrogated pilin glycosylation, confirming its involvement in this process. A Pa5196 pilA mutant complemented with other Pseudomonas pilins containing potential sites of modification expressed nonglycosylated pilins, showing that TfpW's pilin substrate specificity is restricted. TfpW is the prototype of a new type IV pilin posttranslational modification system and the first reported gram-negative member of the GT-C glycosyltransferase family.
In Streptococcus pneumoniae, competence and bacteriocin genes are controlled by two two-component systems, ComED and BlpRH, respectively. In Streptococcus mutans, both functions are controlled by the ComED system. Recent studies in S. mutans revealed a potential ComE binding site characterized by two 11 bp direct repeats shared by each of the bacteriocin genes responsive to the competence-stimulating peptide (CSP). Interestingly, this sequence was not found in the upstream region of the CSP structural gene comC. Since comC is suggested to be part of a CSP-responsive and ComE-dependent autoregulatory loop, it was of interest to determine how it was possible that the ComED system could simultaneously regulate bacteriocin expression and natural competence. Using the intergenic region IGS1499, shared by the CSP-responsive bacteriocin nlmC and comC, it was demonstrated that both genes are likely to be regulated by a bifunctional ComE. In a comE null mutant, comC gene expression was increased similarly to a fully induced wild-type. In contrast, nlmC gene expression was nearly abolished. Deletion of ComD exerted a similar effect on both genes to that observed with the comE null mutation. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays (EMSAs) with purified ComE revealed specific shift patterns dependent on the presence of one or both direct repeats in the nlmC–comC promoter region. The two direct repeats were also required for the promoter activity of both nlmC and comC. These results suggest that gene regulation of comC in S. mutans is fundamentally different from that reported for S. pneumoniae, which implicates a unique regulatory mechanism that allows the coordination of bacteriocin production with competence development.
Autoinducer 2 (AI-2) is the only species-nonspecific autoinducer known in bacteria and is produced by both gram-negative and gram-positive organisms. Consequently, it is proposed to function as a universal quorum-sensing signal for interaction between bacterial species. AI-2 is produced as the by-product of a metabolic transformation carried out by the LuxS enzyme. To separate the metabolic function of the LuxS enzyme from the signaling role of AI-2, we carried out a global transcriptome analysis of a luxS null mutant culture of Streptococcus mutans UA159, an important cariogenic bacterium and a crucial component of the dental plaque biofilm community, in comparison to a luxS null mutant culture supplemented with chemically pure 4,5-dihydroxy-2,3-pentanedione, the precursor of AI-2. The data revealed fundamental changes in gene expression affecting 585 genes (30% of the genome) which could not be restored by the signal molecule AI-2 and are therefore not caused by quorum sensing but by lack of the transformation carried out by the LuxS enzyme in the activated methyl cycle. All functional classes of enzymes were affected, including genes known to be important for biofilm formation, bacteriocin synthesis, competence, and acid tolerance. At the same time, 59 genes were identified whose transcription clearly responded to the addition of AI-2. Some of them were related to protein synthesis, stress, and cell division. Three membrane transport proteins were upregulated which are not related to any of the known AI-2 transporters. Three transcription factors were identified whose transcription was stimulated repeatedly by AI-2 addition during growth. Finally, a global regulatory protein, the δ subunit of the RNA polymerase (rpoE), was induced 147-fold by AI-2, representing the largest differential gene expression observed. The data show that many phenotypes related to the luxS mutation cannot be ascribed to quorum sensing and have identified for the first time regulatory proteins potentially mediating AI-2-based signaling in gram-positive bacteria.
Streptococcus mutans, a normal inhabitant of dental plaque, is considered a primary etiological agent of dental caries. Its main virulence factors are acidogenicity and aciduricity, the abilities to produce acid and to survive and grow at low pH, respectively. Metabolic processes are finely regulated following acid exposure in S. mutans. Proteome analysis of S. mutans demonstrated that lactoylglutathione lyase (LGL) was up-regulated during acid challenge. The LGL enzyme catalyzes the conversion of toxic methylglyoxal, derived from glycolysis, to S-d-lactoylglutathione. Methylglyoxal inhibits the growth of cells in all types of organisms. The current study aimed to investigate the relationship between LGL and aciduricity and acidogenicity in S. mutans. An S. mutans isogenic mutant defective in lgl (LGLKO) was created, and its growth kinetics were characterized. Insertional inactivation of lgl resulted in an acid-sensitive phenotype. However, the glycolytic rate at pH 5.0 was greater for LGLKO than for S. mutans UA159 wild-type cells. LGL was involved in the detoxification of methylglyoxal, illustrated by the absence of enzyme activity in LGLKO and the hypersensitivity of LGLKO to methylglyoxal, compared with UA159 (MIC of 3.9 and 15.6 mM, respectively). Transcriptional analysis of lgl conducted by quantitative real-time PCR revealed that lgl was up-regulated (approximately sevenfold) during the exponential growth phase compared with that in the stationary growth phase. Gene expression studies conducted at low pH demonstrated that lgl was induced during acidic growth (∼3.5-fold) and following acid adaptation (∼2-fold).This study demonstrates that in S. mutans, LGL functions in the detoxification of methylglyoxal, resulting in increased aciduricity.
Streptococcus pyogenes is a ubiquitous and versatile pathogen that causes a variety of infections with a wide range of severity. The versatility of this organism is due in part to its capacity to regulate virulence gene expression in response to the many environments that it encounters during an infection. We analyzed the expression of two potential virulence factors, sagA and siaA (also referred to as pel and htsA, respectively), in response to conditions of varying cell densities and iron concentrations. The sagA gene was up-regulated in conditioned medium from a wild-type strain but not from sagA-deficient mutants, and the gene was also up-regulated in the presence of streptolysin S (SLS), the gene product of sagA, thus indicating that this gene or its product is involved in density-dependent regulation of S. pyogenes. By comparison, siaA responded in a manner consistent with a role in iron acquisition since it was up-regulated under iron-restricted conditions. Although siaA expression was also up-regulated in the presence of SLS and in conditioned media from both wild-type and sagA-deficient mutants, this up-regulation was not growth phase dependent. We conclude that sagA encodes a quorum-sensing signaling molecule, likely SLS, and further support the notion that siaA is likely involved in iron acquisition.
Streptococcus mutans is considered one of the primary etiologic agents of dental caries. Previously, we characterized the VicRK two-component signal transduction system, which regulates multiple virulence factors of S. mutans. In this study, we focused on the vicX gene of the vicRKX tricistronic operon. To characterize vicX, we constructed a nonpolar deletion mutation in the vicX coding region in S. mutans UA159. The growth kinetics of the mutant (designated SmuvicX) showed that the doubling time was longer and that there was considerable sensitivity to paraquat-induced oxidative stress. Supplementing a culture of the wild-type UA159 strain with paraquat significantly increased the expression of vicX (P < 0.05, as determined by analysis of variance [ANOVA]), confirming the role of this gene in oxidative stress tolerance in S. mutans. Examination of mutant biofilms revealed architecturally altered cell clusters that were seemingly denser than the wild-type cell clusters. Interestingly, vicX-deficient cells grown in a glucose-supplemented medium exhibited significantly increased glucosyltransferase B/C (gtfB/C) expression compared with the expression in the wild type (P < 0.05, as determined by ANOVA). Moreover, a sucrose-dependent adhesion assay performed using an S. mutans GS5-derived vicX null mutant demonstrated that the adhesiveness of this mutant was enhanced compared with that of the parent strain and isogenic mutants of the parent strain lacking gtfB and/or gtfC. Also, disruption of vicX reduced the genetic transformability of the mutant approximately 10-fold compared with that of the parent strain (P < 0.05, as determined by ANOVA). Collectively, these findings provide insight into important phenotypes controlled by the vicX gene product that can impact S. mutans pathogenicity.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a gram-negative bacterium that uses polar type IV pili for adherence to various materials and for rapid colonization of surfaces via twitching motility. Within the P. aeruginosa species, five distinct alleles encoding variants of the structural subunit PilA varying in amino acid sequence, length, and presence of posttranslational modifications have been identified. In this work, a combination of mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy was used to identify a novel glycan modification on the pilins of the group IV strain Pa5196. Group IV pilins continued to be modified in a lipopolysaccharide (wbpM) mutant of Pa5196, showing that, unlike group I strains, the pilins of group IV are not modified with the O-antigen unit of the background strain. Instead, the pilin glycan was determined to be an unusual homo-oligomer of α-1,5-linked d-arabinofuranose (d-Araf). This sugar is uncommon in prokaryotes, occurring mainly in the cell wall arabinogalactan and lipoarabinomannan (LAM) polymers of mycobacteria, including Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Mycobacterium leprae. Antibodies raised against M. tuberculosis LAM specifically identified the glycosylated pilins from Pa5196, confirming that the glycan is antigenically, as well as chemically, identical to those of Mycobacterium. P. aeruginosa Pa5196, a rapidly growing strain of low virulence that expresses large amounts of glycosylated type IV pilins on its surface, represents a genetically tractable model system for elucidation of alternate pathways for biosynthesis of d-Araf and its polymerization into mycobacterium-like α-1,5-linked oligosaccharides.
Group A Streptococcus (GAS) causes a range of diseases in humans, from mild noninvasive infections to severe invasive infections. The molecular basis for the varying severity of disease remains unclear. We identified genes expressed during invasive disease using in vivo-induced antigen technology (IVIAT), applied for the first time in a gram-positive organism. Convalescent-phase sera from patients with invasive disease were pooled, adsorbed against antigens derived from in vitro-grown GAS, and used to screen a GAS genomic expression library. A murine model of invasive GAS disease was included as an additional source of sera for screening. Sequencing DNA inserts from clones reactive with both human and mouse sera indicated 16 open reading frames with homology to genes involved in metabolic activity to genes of unknown function. Of these, seven genes were assessed for their differential expression by quantitative real-time PCR both in vivo, utilizing a murine model of invasive GAS disease, and in vitro at different time points of growth. Three gene products—a putative penicillin-binding protein 1A, a putative lipoprotein, and a conserved hypothetical protein homologous to a putative translation initiation inhibitor in Vibrio vulnificus—were upregulated in vivo, suggesting that these genes play a role during invasive disease.
Streptococcus mutans, a normal inhabitant of dental plaque, is considered a primary etiological agent of dental caries. Two virulence determinants of S. mutans are its acidogenicity and aciduricity (the ability to produce acid and the ability to survive and grow at low pH, respectively). Citric acid is ubiquitous in nature; it is a component of fruit juices, bones, and teeth. In lactic acid bacteria citrate transport has been linked to increased survival in acidic conditions. We identified putative citrate transport and metabolism genes in S. mutans, which led us to investigate citrate transport and metabolism. Our goals in this study were to determine the mechanisms of citrate transport and metabolism in S. mutans and to examine whether citrate modulates S. mutans aciduricity. Radiolabeled citrate was used during citrate transport to identify citrate metal ion cofactors, and thin-layer chromatography was used to identify metabolic end products of citrate metabolism. S. mutans was grown in medium MM4 with different citrate concentrations and pH values, and the effects on the growth rate and cell survival were monitored. Intracellular citrate inhibited the growth of the bacteria, especially at low pH. The most effective cofactor for citrate uptake by S. mutans was Fe3+. The metabolic end product of citrate metabolism was aspartate, and a citrate transporter mutant was more citrate tolerant than the parent.
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.
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.
Enterococcus faecalis is a gram-positive opportunistic pathogen known to form biofilms in vitro. In addition, this organism is often isolated from biofilms on the surfaces of various indwelling medical devices. However, the molecular mechanisms regulating biofilm formation in these clinical isolates are largely unknown. Recent work has suggested that a specific cell surface protein (Esp) of E. faecalis is critical for biofilm formation by this organism. However, in the same study, esp-deficient strains of E. faecalis were found to be capable of biofilm formation. To test the hypothesis that Esp is dispensable for biofilm formation by E. faecalis, we used microtiter plate assays and a chemostat-based biofilm fermentor assay to examine biofilm formation by genetically well-defined, non-Esp-expressing strains. Our results demonstrate that in vitro biofilm formation occurs, not only in the absence of esp, but also in the absence of the entire pathogenicity island that harbors the esp coding sequence. Using scanning electron microscopy to evaluate biofilms of E. faecalis OG1RF grown in the fermentor system, biofilm development was observed to progress through multiple stages, including attachment of individual cells to the substratum, microcolony formation, and maturation into complex multilayered structures apparently containing water channels. Microtiter plate biofilm analyses indicated that biofilm formation or maintenance was modulated by environmental conditions. Furthermore, our results demonstrate that expression of a secreted metalloprotease, GelE, enhances biofilm formation by E. faecalis. In summary, E. faecalis forms complex biofilms by a process that is sensitive to environmental conditions and does not require the Esp surface protein.
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.