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1.  Streptococcus mutans Extracellular DNA Is Upregulated during Growth in Biofilms, Actively Released via Membrane Vesicles, and Influenced by Components of the Protein Secretion Machinery 
Journal of Bacteriology  2014;196(13):2355-2366.
Streptococcus mutans, a major etiological agent of human dental caries, lives primarily on the tooth surface in biofilms. Limited information is available concerning the extracellular DNA (eDNA) as a scaffolding matrix in S. mutans biofilms. This study demonstrates that S. mutans produces eDNA by multiple avenues, including lysis-independent membrane vesicles. Unlike eDNAs from cell lysis that were abundant and mainly concentrated around broken cells or cell debris with floating open ends, eDNAs produced via the lysis-independent pathway appeared scattered but in a structured network under scanning electron microscopy. Compared to eDNA production of planktonic cultures, eDNA production in 5- and 24-h biofilms was increased by >3- and >1.6-fold, respectively. The addition of DNase I to growth medium significantly reduced biofilm formation. In an in vitro adherence assay, added chromosomal DNA alone had a limited effect on S. mutans adherence to saliva-coated hydroxylapatite beads, but in conjunction with glucans synthesized using purified glucosyltransferase B, the adherence was significantly enhanced. Deletion of sortase A, the transpeptidase that covalently couples multiple surface-associated proteins to the cell wall peptidoglycan, significantly reduced eDNA in both planktonic and biofilm cultures. Sortase A deficiency did not have a significant effect on membrane vesicle production; however, the protein profile of the mutant membrane vesicles was significantly altered, including reduction of adhesin P1 and glucan-binding proteins B and C. Relative to the wild type, deficiency of protein secretion and membrane protein insertion machinery components, including Ffh, YidC1, and YidC2, also caused significant reductions in eDNA.
PMCID: PMC4054167  PMID: 24748612
2.  PBP1a-Deficiency Causes Major Defects in Cell Division, Growth and Biofilm Formation by Streptococcus mutans 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(4):e0124319.
Streptococcus mutans, a key etiological agent of human dental caries, lives almost exclusively on the tooth surface in plaque biofilms and is known for its ability to survive and respond to various environmental insults, including low pH, and antimicrobial agents from other microbes and oral care products. In this study, a penicillin-binding protein (PBP1a)-deficient mutant, strain JB467, was generated by allelic replacement mutagenesis and analyzed for the effects of such a deficiency on S. mutans’ stress tolerance response and biofilm formation. Our results so far have shown that PBP1a-deficiency in S. mutans affects growth of the deficient mutant, especially at acidic and alkaline pHs. As compared to the wild-type, UA159, the PBP1a-deficient mutant, JB467, had a reduced growth rate at pH 6.2 and did not grow at all at pH 8.2. Unlike the wild-type, the inclusion of paraquat in growth medium, especially at 2 mM or above, significantly reduced the growth rate of the mutant. Acid killing assays showed that the mutant was 15-fold more sensitive to pH 2.8 than the wild-type after 30 minutes. In a hydrogen peroxide killing assay, the mutant was 16-fold more susceptible to hydrogen peroxide (0.2%, w/v) after 90 minutes than the wild-type. Relative to the wild-type, the mutant also had an aberrant autolysis rate, indicative of compromises in cell envelope integrity. As analyzed using on 96-well plate model and spectrophotometry, biofilm formation by the mutant was decreased significantly, as compared to the wild-type. Consistently, Field Emission-SEM analysis also showed that the PBP1a-deficient mutant had limited capacity to form biofilms. TEM analysis showed that PBP1a mutant existed primarily in long rod-like cells and cells with multiple septa, as compared to the coccal wild-type. The results presented here highlight the importance of pbp1a in cell morphology, stress tolerance, and biofilm formation in S. mutans.
PMCID: PMC4399832  PMID: 25880908
3.  Deficiency of BrpB causes major defects in cell division, stress responses and biofilm formation by Streptococcus mutans 
Microbiology  2014;160(Pt 1):67-78.
Streptococcus mutans, the primary aetiological agent of dental caries, possesses an YjeE-like protein that is encoded by locus SMU.409, herein designated brpB. In this study, a BrpB-deficient mutant, JB409, and a double mutant deficient of BrpB and BrpA (a paralogue of the LytR–CpsA–Psr family of cell wall-associated proteins), JB819, were constructed and characterized using function assays and microscopy analysis. Both JB409 and JB819 displayed extended lag phases and drastically slowed growth rates during growth in brain heart infusion medium as compared to the wild-type, UA159. Relative to UA159, JB409 and JB819 were more than 60- and 10-fold more susceptible to acid killing at pH 2.8, and more than 1 and 2 logs more susceptible to hydrogen peroxide, respectively. Complementation of the deficient mutants with a wild-type copy of the respective gene(s) partly restored the acid and oxidative stress responses to a level similar to the wild-type. As compared to UA159, biofilm formation by JB409 and JB819 was drastically reduced (P<0.001), especially during growth in medium containing sucrose. Under a scanning electron microscope, JB409 had significantly more giant cells with an elongated, rod-like morphology, and JB819 formed marble-like super cells with apparent defects in cell division. As revealed by transmission electron microscopy analysis, BrpB deficiency in both JB409 and JB819 resulted in the development of low electron density patches and formation of a loose nucleoid structure. Taken together, these results suggest that BrpB likely functions together with BrpA in regulating cell envelope biogenesis/homeostasis in Strep. mutans. Further studies are under way to elucidate the mechanism that underlies the BrpA- and BrpB-mediated regulation.
PMCID: PMC3917225  PMID: 24190982
4.  Psr is involved in regulation of glucan production, and double deficiency of BrpA and Psr is lethal in Streptococcus mutans 
Microbiology  2013;159(Pt 3):493-506.
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.
PMCID: PMC3709821  PMID: 23288544
5.  The Redox-Sensing Regulator Rex Modulates Central Carbon Metabolism, Stress Tolerance Response and Biofilm Formation by Streptococcus mutans 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e44766.
The Rex repressor has been implicated in regulation of central carbon and energy metabolism in Gram-positive bacteria. We have previously shown that Streptococcus mutans, the primary causative agent of dental caries, alters its transcriptome upon Rex-deficiency and renders S. mutans to have increased susceptibility to oxidative stress, aberrations in glucan production, and poor biofilm formation. In this study, we showed that rex in S. mutans is co-transcribed as an operon with downstream guaA, encoding a putative glutamine amidotransferase. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays showed that recombinant Rex bound promoters of target genes avidly and specifically, including those down-regulated in response to Rex-deficiency, and that the ability of recombinant Rex to bind to selected promoters was modulated by NADH and NAD+. Results suggest that Rex in S. mutans can function as an activator in response to intracellular NADH/NAD+ level, although the exact binding site for activator Rex remains unclear. Consistent with a role in oxidative stress tolerance, hydrogen peroxide challenge assays showed that the Rex-deficient mutant, TW239, and the Rex/GuaA double mutant, JB314, were more susceptible to hydrogen peroxide killing than the wildtype, UA159. Relative to UA159, JB314 displayed major defects in biofilm formation, with a decrease of more than 50-fold in biomass after 48-hours. Collectively, these results further suggest that Rex in S. mutans regulates fermentation pathways, oxidative stress tolerance, and biofilm formation in response to intracellular NADH/NAD+ level. Current effort is being directed to further investigation of the role of GuaA in S. mutans cellular physiology.
PMCID: PMC3441419  PMID: 23028612

Results 1-5 (5)