Acidogenicity and aciduricity are the main virulence factors of the cavity-causing bacterium Streptococcus mutans. Monitoring at the individual cell level the temporal and spatial distribution of acid produced by this important oral pathogen is central for our understanding of these key virulence factors especially when S. mutans resides in multi-species microbial communities. In this study, we explored the application of pH-sensitive green fluorescent proteins (pHluorins) to investigate these important features. Ecliptic pHluorin was functionally displayed on the cell surface of S. mutans as a fusion protein with SpaP. The resulting strain (O87) was used to monitor temporal and spatial pH changes in the microenvironment of S. mutans cells under both planktonic and biofilm conditions. Using strain O87, we revealed a rapid pH drop in the microenviroment of S. mutans microcolonies prior to the decrease in the macro-environment pH following sucrose fermentation. Meanwhile, a non-uniform pH distribution was observed within S. mutans biofilms, reflecting differences in microbial metabolic activity. Furthermore, strain O87 was successfully used to monitor the S. mutans acid production profiles within dual- and multispecies oral biofilms. Based on these findings, the ecliptic pHluorin allows us to investigate in vivo and in situ acid production and distribution by the cariogenic species S. mutans.
Type IV pili (TFP) and exopolysaccharides (EPS) are important components for social behaviors in Myxococcus xanthus, including gliding motility and fruiting body formation. Although specific interactions between TFP and EPS have been proposed, direct observations of these interactions under native condition have not yet been made. In this study, we found that a truncated PilA protein (PilACt) which only contains the C-terminal domain (amino acids 32-208) is sufficient for EPS binding in vitro. Furthermore, an enhanced green fluorescent protein (eGFP) and PilACt fusion protein was constructed and used to label the native EPS in M. xanthus. Under confocal laser scanning microscope, the eGFP-PilACt-bound fruiting bodies, trail structures and biofilms exhibited similar patterns as the wheat germ agglutinin lectin (WGA)-labeled EPS structures. This study showed that eGFP-PilACt fusion protein was able to efficiently label the EPS of M. xanthus and for the first time provided evidence for the direct interaction between the PilA protein and EPS under native conditions.
Type IV Pilin; Exopolysaccharides; Biofilm; Fruiting body; Confocal laser scanning microscopy; eGFP
One intriguing discovery in modern microbiology is the extensive presence of extracellular DNA (eDNA) within biofilms of various bacterial species. Although several biological functions have been suggested for eDNA, including involvement in biofilm formation, the detailed mechanism of eDNA integration into biofilm architecture is still poorly understood. In the biofilms formed by Myxococcus xanthus, a Gram-negative soil bacterium with complex morphogenesis and social behaviors, DNA was found within both extracted and native extracellular matrices (ECM). Further examination revealed that these eDNA molecules formed well organized structures that were similar in appearance to the organization of exopolysaccharides (EPS) in ECM. Biochemical and image analyses confirmed that eDNA bound to and colocalized with EPS within the ECM of starvation biofilms and fruiting bodies. In addition, ECM containing eDNA exhibited greater physical strength and biological stress resistance compared to DNase I treated ECM. Taken together, these findings demonstrate that DNA interacts with EPS and strengthens biofilm structures in M. xanthus.
As part of the human gastrointestinal tract, the oral cavity represents a complex biological system and harbors diverse bacterial species. Unlike the gut microbiota which is often considered a health asset, studies of the oral commensal microbial flora have been largely limited to their implication in oral diseases such as dental caries and periodontal diseases; Little emphasis has been given to their potential beneficial roles, especially the protective effects against oral colonization by foreign/pathogenic bacteria. In this study, we used the salivary microbiota derived from healthy human subjects to investigate protective effects against the colonization and integration of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, an opportunistic bacterial pathogen, into developing and pre-formed salivary biofilms. When co-cultivated in saliva medium, P. aeruginosa persisted in the planktonic phase, but failed to integrate into salivary microbial community during biofilm formation. Furthermore, in the saliva medium supplemented with 0.05% (w/v) sucrose, the oral flora inhibited the growth of P. aeruginosa by producing lactic acid. More interestingly, while pre-formed salivary biofilms were able to prevent P. aeruginosa colonization, the same biofilms recovered from mild chlorhexidine gluconate treatment displayed a shift in microbial composition and showed a drastic reduction in protection. Our study indicates that normal oral communities with balanced microbial compositions could be important in effectively preventing the integration of foreign/pathogenic bacterial species, such as P. aeruginosa.
bacterial interference; microbial flora; oral cavity; Pseudomonas aeruginosa; salivary biofilm
This study investigated the bacterial communities residing in the apical portion of human teeth with apical periodontitis in primary and secondary infections using a culture-independent molecular biology approach.
Root canal samples from the apical root segments of extracted teeth were collected from 18 teeth with necrotic pulp and 8 teeth with previous endodontic treatment. Samples were processed for amplification via polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and separated with denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE). Selected bands were excised from the gel and sequenced for identification.
Comparable to previous studies of entire root canals, the apical bacterial communities in primary infections were significantly more diverse than in secondary infections (p=0.0003). Inter- and intra-patient comparisons exhibited similar variations in profiles. Different roots of the same teeth with secondary infections displayed low similarity in bacterial composition, while an equivalent sample collected from primary infection contained almost identical populations. Sequencing revealed a high prevalence of fusobacteria, Actinomyces sp. and oral Anaeroglobus geminatus in both types of infection. Many secondary infections contained Burkholderiales or Pseudomonas sp. both of which represent opportunistic environmental pathogens.
Certain microorganisms exhibit similar prevalence in primary and secondary infection indicating that they are likely not eradicated during endodontic treatment. The presence of Burkholderiales and Pseudomonas sp. underscores the problem of environmental contamination. Treatment appears to affect the various root canals of multi-rooted teeth differently, resulting in local changes of the microbiota.
Apical periodontitis; endodontic infections; community profiling; polymerase chain reaction; denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis
It is a well-recognized fact that the composition of human salivary microbial community is greatly affected by its nutritional environment. However, most studies are currently focused on major carbon or nitrogen sources with limited attention to trace elements like essential mineral ions. In this study, we examined the effect of iron availability on the bacterial profiles of an in vitro human salivary microbial community as iron is an essential trace element for the survival and proliferation of virtually all microorganisms. Analysis via a combination of PCR with denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) demonstrated a drastic change in species composition of an in vitro human salivary microbiota when iron was scavenged from the culture medium by addition of the iron chelator 2,2’- bipyridyl (Bipy). This shift in community profile was prevented by the presence of excessive ferrous iron (Fe2+). Most interestingly, under iron deficiency, the in vitro grown salivary microbial community became dominated by several hemolytic bacterial species, including Streptococcus spp., Gemella spp. and Granulicatella spp.all of which have been implicated in infective endocarditis. These data provide evidence that iron availability can modulate host-associated oral microbial communities, resulting in a microbiota with potential clinical impact.
iron availability; microbial flora; oral cavity
The development of multispecies oral microbial communities involves complex intra- and interspecies interactions at various levels. The ability to adhere to the resident bacteria or the biofilm matrix and overcome community resistance are among the key factors that determine whether a bacterium can integrate into a community. In this study, we focus on community integration of Fusobacterium nucleatum, a prevalent Gram-negative oral bacterial species that is considered an important member of the oral community due to its ability to adhere to Gram-positive as well as Gram-negative species. This interaction with a variety of different species is thought to facilitate the establishment of multispecies oral microbial community. However, the majority of experiments thus far has focused on the physical adherence between two species as measured by in vitro co-aggregation assays, while the community-based effects on the integration of F. nucleatum into multispecies microbial community remains to be investigated. In this study, we demonstrated using an established in vitro mice oral microbiota (O-mix) that the viability of F. nucleatum was significantly reduced upon addition to the O-mix due to cell contact-dependent induction of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) production by oral community. Interestingly, this inhibitory effect was significantly alleviated when F. nucleatum was allowed to adhere to its known interacting partner species (such as Streptococcus sanguinis) prior to addition. Furthermore, this aggregate formation-dependent protection was absent in the F. nucleatum mutant strain ΔFn1526 that is unable to bind to a number of Gram-positive species. More importantly, this protective effect was also observed during integration of F. nucleatum into a human salivary microbial community (S-mix). These results support the idea that by adhering to other oral microbes, such as streptococci, F. nucleatum is able to mask the surface components that are recognized by H2O2 producing oral community members. This evasion strategy prevents detection by antagonistic oral bacteria and allows integration into the developing oral microbial community.
coaggregation; Fusobacterium nucleatum; microbial flora; oral cavity; community resistance
Myxococcus xanthus belongs to the delta class of the proteobacteria and is notable for its complex life-style with social behaviors and relatively large genome. Although previous observations have suggested the existence of horizontal gene transfer in M. xanthus, its ability to take up exogenous DNA via natural transformation has not been experimentally demonstrated. In this study, we achieved natural transformation in M. xanthus using the autonomously replicating myxobacterial plasmid pZJY41 as donor DNA. M. xanthus exopolysaccharide (EPS) was shown to be an extracellular barrier for transformation. Cells deficient in EPS production, e.g., mutant strains carrying ΔdifA or ΔepsA, became naturally transformable. Among the inner barriers to transformation were restriction-modification systems in M. xanthus, which could be partially overcome by methylating DNA in vitro using cell extracts of M. xanthus prior to transformation. In addition, the incubation time of DNA with cells and the presence of divalent magnesium ion affected transformation frequency of M. xanthus. Furthermore, we also observed a potential involvement of the type IV pilus system in the DNA uptake machinery of M. xanthus. The natural transformation was totally eliminated in the ΔpilQ/epsA and Δtgl/epsA mutants, and null mutation of pilB or pilC in an ΔepsA background diminished the transformation rate. Our study, to the best of our knowledge, provides the first example of a naturally transformable species among deltaproteobacteria.
The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is home to trillions of microbes. Within the same GI tract substantial differences in the bacterial species that inhabit the oral cavity and intestinal tract have been noted. While the influence of host environments and nutritional availability in shaping different microbial communities is widely accepted, we hypothesize that the existing microbial flora also plays a role in selecting the bacterial species that are being integrated into the community. In this study, we used cultivable microbial communities isolated from different parts of the GI tract of mice (oral cavity and intestines) as a model system to examine this hypothesis. Microbes from these two areas were harvested and cultured using the same nutritional conditions, which led to two distinct microbial communities, each with about 20 different species as revealed by PCR-DGGE analysis. In vitro community competition assays showed that the two microbial floras exhibited antagonistic interactions towards each other. More interestingly, all the original isolates tested and their closely related species displayed striking community preferences: they persisted when introduced into the bacterial community of the same origin, while their viable count declined more than 3 orders of magnitude after 4 days of coincubation with the microbial flora of foreign origin. These results suggest that an existing microbial community might impose a selective pressure on incoming foreign bacterial species independent of host selection. The observed inter-flora interactions could contribute to the protective effect of established microbial communities against the integration of foreign bacteria to maintain the stability of the existing communities.
Streptococcus mutans is a primary pathogen for dental caries in humans. CiaR and CiaH of S. mutans comprise a two-component signal transduction system (TCS) involved in regulating various virulent factors. However, the signal that triggers the CiaRH response remains unknown. In this study, we show that calcium is a signal for regulation of the ciaRH operon, and that a double-glycine-containing small peptide encoded within the ciaRH operon (renamed ciaX) mediates this regulation. CiaX contains a serine-aspartate (SD) domain that is shared by calcium-binding proteins. A markerless in-frame deletion of ciaX reduced ciaRH operon expression and diminished the calcium repression of operon transcription. Point mutations of the SD-domain resulted in the same phenotype as the in-frame deletion, indicating that the SD-domain is required for CiaX function. Further characterization of ciaX demonstrated that it is involved in calcium mediated biofilm formation. Furthermore, inactivation of ciaR or ciaH led to the same phenotype as the in-frame deletion of ciaX, suggesting that all three genes are involved in the same regulatory pathway. Sequence analysis and real-time RT-PCR identified a putative CiaR binding site upstream of ciaX. We conclude that the ciaXRH operon is a three-component, self-regulatory system modulating cellular functions in response to calcium.
Within the same human gastrointestinal (GI) tract, substantial differences in the bacterial species that inhabit oral cavity and intestinal tract have been noted. Previous research primarily attributed the differences to the influences of host environments and nutritional availabilities (“host habitat” effect). Our recent study indicated that, other than the host habitat effect, an existing microbial community could impose a selective pressure on incoming foreign bacterial species independent of host-mediated selection (“community selection” effect). In this study, we employed in vitro microbial floras representing microorganisms that inhabit the oral cavities and intestinal tract of mice in combination with Escherichia coli as a model intestinal bacterium and demonstrated that E. coli displays a striking community preference. It thrived when introduced into the intestinal microbial community, and survived poorly in the microbial flora of foreign origin (oral community). A more detailed examination of this phenomenon showed that the oral community produced oxygen free radicals in the presence of wild type E. coli while mutants deficient in lipopolysaccharides (LPS) did not trigger significant production of these cell damaging agents. Furthermore, mutants of E. coli defective in the oxidative stress response experienced a more drastic reduction in viability when co-cultivated with the oral flora, while the exogenous addition of the anti-oxidant vitamin C was able to rescue it. We concluded that the oral-derived microbial community senses the E. coli LPS and kills the bacterium with oxygen free radicals. This study reveals a new mechanism of community invasion resistance employed by established microflora to defend their domains.
Since the initial observations of oral bacteria within dental plaque by van Leeuwenhoek using his primitive microscopes in 1680, an event that is generally recognized as the advent of oral microbiological investigation, oral microbiology has gone through phases of “reductionism” and “holism”. From the small beginnings of the Miller and Black period, in which microbiologists followed Koch’s postulates, took the reductionist approach to try to study the complex oral microbial community by analyzing individual species; to the modern era when oral researchers embrace “holism” or “system thinking”, adopt new concepts such as interspecies interaction, microbial community, biofilms, poly-microbial diseases, oral microbiological knowledge has burgeoned and our ability to identify the resident organisms in dental plaque and decipher the interactions between key components has rapidly increased, such knowledge has greatly changed our view of the oral microbial flora, provided invaluable insight into the etiology of dental and periodontal diseases, opened the door to new approaches and techniques for developing new therapeutic and preventive tools for combating oral poly-microbial diseases.
The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is home to trillions of microbes. Within the same GI tract, substantial differences in the bacterial species that inhabit the oral cavity and intestinal tract have been noted. While the influence of host environments and nutritional availability in shaping different microbial communities is widely accepted, we hypothesize that the existing microbial flora also plays a role in selecting the bacterial species that are being integrated into the community. In this study, we used cultivable microbial communities isolated from different parts of the GI tract of mice (oral cavity and intestines) as a model system to examine this hypothesis. Microbes from these two areas were harvested and cultured using the same nutritional conditions, which led to two distinct microbial communities, each with about 20 different species as revealed by PCR-based denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis analysis. In vitro community competition assays showed that the two microbial floras exhibited antagonistic interactions toward each other. More interestingly, all the original isolates tested and their closely related species displayed striking community preferences: They persisted when introduced into the bacterial community of the same origin, while their viable count declined more than three orders of magnitude after 4 days of coincubation with the microbial flora of foreign origin. These results suggest that an existing microbial community might impose a selective pressure on incoming foreign bacterial species independent of host selection. The observed inter-flora interactions could contribute to the protective effect of established microbial communities against the integration of foreign bacteria to maintain the stability of the existing communities.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00248-010-9711-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Within the same human gastrointestinal tract, substantial differences in the bacterial species that inhabit oral cavity and intestinal tract have been noted. Previous research primarily attributed the differences to the influences of host environments and nutritional availabilities (“host habitat” effect). Our recent study indicated that, other than the host habitat effect, an existing microbial community could impose a selective pressure on incoming foreign bacterial species independent of host-mediated selection (“community selection” effect). In this study, we employed in vitro microbial floras representing microorganisms that inhabit the oral cavities and intestinal tract of mice in combination with Escherichia coli as a model intestinal bacterium and demonstrated that E. coli displays a striking community preference. It thrived when introduced into the intestinal microbial community and survived poorly in the microbial flora of foreign origin (oral community). A more detailed examination of this phenomenon showed that the oral community produced oxygen-free radicals in the presence of wild-type E. coli while mutants deficient in lipopolysaccharides (LPS) did not trigger significant production of these cell-damaging agents. Furthermore, mutants of E. coli defective in the oxidative stress response experienced a more drastic reduction in viability when cocultivated with the oral flora, while the exogenous addition of the antioxidant vitamin C was able to rescue it. We concluded that the oral-derived microbial community senses the E. coli LPS and kills the bacterium with oxygen-free radicals. This study reveals a new mechanism of community invasion resistance employed by established microflora to defend their domains.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00248-010-9708-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Unlike many pathogens are foreign invaders, oral “pathogens” such as Streptococcus mutans are part of the “normal” oral microbial flora. While they express certain pathogenic properties, the balance of synergistic and antagonistic interactions determines whether these çommensal pathogens cause damage or not. Recognition of these microbial ecology based pathogeneses argues for new strategies for disease treatment and prevention.
Probiotics, potentially beneficial live bacteria or yeasts, have been used to combat dental caries. This includes the application of S. mutans types that cannot produce acids or other bacteria that interfere with the pathogenic effects of S. mutans. While these approaches show therapeutic effects against S. mutans experimentally, the conversion into commercial products remains a challenge, due to safety and shelf life issues. New high-tech approaches, such as quorum sensing interference of pathogenic bacteria or targeted antimicrobial therapies, offer novel ways to achieve probiotic effects against dental caries.
Summary: While reductionism has greatly advanced microbiology in the past 400 years, assembly of smaller pieces just could not explain the whole! Modern microbiologists are learning “system thinking” and “holism.” Such an approach is changing our understanding of microbial physiology and our ability to diagnose/treat microbial infections. This review uses oral microbial communities as a focal point to describe this new trend. With the common name “dental plaque,” oral microbial communities are some of the most complex microbial floras in the human body, consisting of more than 700 different bacterial species. For a very long time, oral microbiologists endeavored to use reductionism to identify the key genes or key pathogens responsible for oral microbial pathogenesis. The limitations of reductionism forced scientists to begin adopting new strategies using emerging concepts such as interspecies interaction, microbial community, biofilms, polymicrobial disease, etc. These new research directions indicate that the whole is much more than the simple sum of its parts, since the interactions between different parts resulted in many new physiological functions which cannot be observed with individual components. This review describes some of these interesting interspecies-interaction scenarios.
Rhizobium sp. strain NGR234 forms symbiotic, nitrogen-fixing nodules on a wide range of legumes via functions largely encoded by the plasmid pNGR234a. The pNGR234a sequence revealed a region encoding plasmid replication (rep) and conjugal transfer (tra) functions similar to those encoded by the rep and tra genes from the tumor-inducing (Ti) plasmids of Agrobacterium tumefaciens, including homologues of the Ti plasmid quorum-sensing regulators TraI, TraR, and TraM. In A. tumefaciens, TraI, a LuxI-type protein, catalyzes synthesis of the acylated homoserine lactone (acyl-HSL) N-3-oxo-octanoyl-l-homoserine lactone (3-oxo-C8-HSL). TraR binds 3-oxo-C8-HSL and activates expression of Ti plasmid tra and rep genes, increasing conjugation and copy number at high population densities. TraM prevents this activation under noninducing conditions. Although the pNGR234a TraR, TraI, and TraM appear to function similarly to their A. tumefaciens counterparts, the TraR and TraM orthologues are not cross-functional, and the quorum-sensing systems have differences. NGR234 TraI synthesizes an acyl-HSL likely to be 3-oxo-C8-HSL, but traI mutants and a pNGR234a-cured derivative produce low levels of a similar acyl-HSL and another, more hydrophobic signal molecule. TraR activates expression of several pNGR234a tra operons in response to 3-oxo-C8-HSL and is inhibited by TraM. However, one of the pNGR234a tra operons is not activated by TraR, and conjugal efficiency is not affected by TraR and 3-oxo-C8-HSL. The growth rate of NGR234 is significantly decreased by TraR and 3-oxo-C8-HSL through functions encoded elsewhere in the NGR234 genome.