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author:("Shi, wenchuan")
1.  Transcriptional Responses of Treponema denticola to Other Oral Bacterial Species 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e88361.
The classic organization by Socransky and coworkers categorized the oral bacteria of the subgingival plaque into different complexes. Treponema denticola, Porphyromonas gingivalis and Tannerella forsythia are grouped into the red complex that is highly correlated with periodontal disease. Socransky's work closely associates red with orange complex species such as Fusobacterium nucleatum and Prevotella intermedia but not with members of the other complexes. While the relationship between species contained by these complexes is in part supported by their ability to physically attach to each other, the physiological consequences of these interactions and associations are less clear. In this study, we employed T. denticola as a model organism to analyze contact-dependent responses to interactions with species belonging to the same complex (P. gingivalis and T. forsythia), the closely associated orange complex (using F. nucleatum and P. intermedia as representatives) and the unconnected yellow complex (using Streptococcus sanguinis and S. gordonii as representatives). RNA was extracted from T. denticola alone as well as after pairwise co-incubation for 5 hrs with representatives of the different complexes, and the respective gene expression profiles were determined using microarrays. Numerous genes related to motility, metabolism, transport, outer membrane and hypothetical proteins were differentially regulated in T. denticola in the presence of the tested partner species. Further analysis revealed a significant overlap in the affected genes and we identified a general response to the presence of other species, those specific to two of the three complexes as well as individual complexes. Most interestingly, many predicted major antigens (e.g. flagella, Msp, CTLP) were suppressed in responses that included red complex species indicating that the presence of the most closely associated species induces immune-evasive strategies. In summary, the data presented here provide an in-depth understanding of the transcriptional responses triggered by contact-dependent interactions between microorganisms inhabiting the periodontal pocket.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0088361
PMCID: PMC3914990  PMID: 24505483
2.  Phenotypic characterization of the foldase homologue PrsA in Streptococcus mutans 
Molecular oral microbiology  2012;28(2):10.1111/omi.12014.
SUMMARY
Streptococcus mutans is generally considered to be the principal etiological agent for dental caries. Many of the proteins necessary for its colonization of the oral cavity and pathogenesis are exported to the cell surface or the extracellular matrix, a process that requires the assistance of the export machineries. Bioinformatic analysis revealed that the S. mutans genome contains a prsA gene, whose counterparts in other gram positive bacteria, including Bacillus and Lactococcus encode functions involved in protein post-export. In this study, we constructed a PrsA-deficient derivative of S. mutans and demonstrated that the prsA mutant displayed an altered cell wall/ membrane protein profile as well as cell surface related phenotypes, including auto-aggregation, increased surface hydrophobicity, and abnormal biofilm formation. Further analysis revealed that the disruption of the prsA gene resulted in reduced insoluble glucan production by cell surface localized glucosyltransferases, and mutacin as well as cell surface-display of a heterologous expressed GFP fusion to the cell surface protein SpaP. Our study suggested that PrsA in S. mutans encodes functions similar to the ones identified in Bacillus, and thus is likely involved in protein post-export.
doi:10.1111/omi.12014
PMCID: PMC3819222  PMID: 23241367
foldase protein PrsA; protein secretion; Streptococcus mutans
3.  Effects of Exopolysaccharide Production on Liquid Vegetative Growth, Stress Survival and Stationary Phase Recovery in Myxococcus xanthus 
Journal of microbiology (Seoul, Korea)  2012;50(2):10.1007/s12275-012-1349-5.
Exopolysaccharide (EPS) of Myxococcus xanthus is a well-regulated cell surface component. In addition to its known functions for social motility and fruiting body formation on solid surfaces, EPS has also been proposed to play a role in multi-cellular clumping in liquid medium, though this phenomenon has not been well studied. In this report, we confirmed that M. xanthus clumps formed in liquid were correlated with EPS levels and demonstrated that the EPS encased cell clumps exhibited biofilm-like structures. The clumps protected the cells at physiologically relevant EPS concentrations, while cells lacking EPS exhibited significant reduction in long-term viability and resistance to stressful conditions. However, excess EPS production was counterproductive to vegetative growth and viable cell recovery declined in extended late stationary phase as cells became trapped in the matrix of clumps. Therefore, optimal EPS production by M. xanthus is important for normal physiological functions in liquid.
doi:10.1007/s12275-012-1349-5
PMCID: PMC3819231  PMID: 22538652
Myxococcus xanthus; exopolysaccharide; vegetative growth; stress survival; stationary phase recovery
4.  An in vitro biofilm model system maintaining a highly reproducible species and metabolic diversity approaching that of the human oral microbiome 
Microbiome  2013;1:25.
Background
Our knowledge of microbial diversity in the human oral cavity has vastly expanded during the last two decades of research. However, much of what is known about the behavior of oral species to date derives from pure culture approaches and the studies combining several cultivated species, which likely does not fully reflect their function in complex microbial communities. It has been shown in studies with a limited number of cultivated species that early oral biofilm development occurs in a successional manner and that continuous low pH can lead to an enrichment of aciduric species. Observations that in vitro grown plaque biofilm microcosms can maintain similar pH profiles in response to carbohydrate addition as plaque in vivo suggests a complex microbial community can be established in the laboratory. In light of this, our primary goal was to develop a robust in vitro biofilm-model system from a pooled saliva inoculum in order to study the stability, reproducibility, and development of the oral microbiome, and its dynamic response to environmental changes from the community to the molecular level.
Results
Comparative metagenomic analyses confirmed a high similarity of metabolic potential in biofilms to recently available oral metagenomes from healthy subjects as part of the Human Microbiome Project. A time-series metagenomic analysis of the taxonomic community composition in biofilms revealed that the proportions of major species at 3 hours of growth are maintained during 48 hours of biofilm development. By employing deep pyrosequencing of the 16S rRNA gene to investigate this biofilm model with regards to bacterial taxonomic diversity, we show a high reproducibility of the taxonomic carriage and proportions between: 1) individual biofilm samples; 2) biofilm batches grown at different dates; 3) DNA extraction techniques and 4) research laboratories.
Conclusions
Our study demonstrates that we now have the capability to grow stable oral microbial in vitro biofilms containing more than one hundred operational taxonomic units (OTU) which represent 60-80% of the original inoculum OTU richness. Previously uncultivated Human Oral Taxa (HOT) were identified in the biofilms and contributed to approximately one-third of the totally captured 16S rRNA gene diversity. To our knowledge, this represents the highest oral bacterial diversity reported for an in vitro model system so far. This robust model will help investigate currently uncultivated species and the known virulence properties for many oral pathogens not solely restricted to pure culture systems, but within multi-species biofilms.
doi:10.1186/2049-2618-1-25
PMCID: PMC3971625  PMID: 24451062
In vitro model; Biofilm; Oral microbiome; Saliva; Streptococcus; Lactobacillus; Uncultivated bacteria
5.  The clpB gene is involved in the stress response of Myxococcus xanthus during vegetative growth and development 
Microbiology  2012;158(Pt 9):2336-2343.
The Clp/HSP100 family of molecular chaperones is ubiquitous in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes. These proteins play important roles in refolding, disaggregating and degrading proteins damaged by stress. As a subclass of the Clp/HSP100 family, ClpB has been shown to be involved in various stress responses as well as other functions in bacteria. In the present study, we investigated the role of a predicted ClpB-encoding gene, MXAN5092, in the stress response during vegetative growth and development of Myxococcus xanthus. Transcriptional analysis confirmed induction of this clpB homologue under different stress conditions, and further phenotypic analysis revealed that an in-frame deletion mutant of MXAN5092 was more sensitive to various stress treatments than the wild-type strain during vegetative growth. Moreover, the absence of the MXAN5092 gene resulted in decreased heat tolerance of myxospores, indicating the involvement of this clpB homologue in the stress response during the development of myxospores. The M. xanthus recombinant ClpB (MXAN5092) protein also showed a general chaperone activity in vitro. Overall, our genetic and phenotypic analysis of the predicted ATP-dependent chaperone protein ClpB (MXAN5092) demonstrated that it functions as a chaperone protein and plays an important role in cellular stress tolerance during both vegetative growth and development of M. xanthus.
doi:10.1099/mic.0.060103-0
PMCID: PMC3542817  PMID: 22790397
6.  Mapping the Tail Fiber as the Receptor Binding Protein Responsible for Differential Host Specificity of Pseudomonas aeruginosa Bacteriophages PaP1 and JG004 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e68562.
The first step in bacteriophage infection is recognition and binding to the host receptor, which is mediated by the phage receptor binding protein (RBP). Different RBPs can lead to differential host specificity. In many bacteriophages, such as Escherichia coli and Lactococcal phages, RBPs have been identified as the tail fiber or protruding baseplate proteins. However, the tail fiber-dependent host specificity in Pseudomonas aeruginosa phages has not been well studied. This study aimed to identify and investigate the binding specificity of the RBP of P. aeruginosa phages PaP1 and JG004. These two phages share high DNA sequence homology but exhibit different host specificities. A spontaneous mutant phage was isolated and exhibited broader host range compared with the parental phage JG004. Sequencing of its putative tail fiber and baseplate region indicated a single point mutation in ORF84 (a putative tail fiber gene), which resulted in the replacement of a positively charged lysine (K) by an uncharged asparagine (N). We further demonstrated that the replacement of the tail fiber gene (ORF69) of PaP1 with the corresponding gene from phage JG004 resulted in a recombinant phage that displayed altered host specificity. Our study revealed the tail fiber-dependent host specificity in P. aeruginosa phages and provided an effective tool for its alteration. These contributions may have potential value in phage therapy.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0068562
PMCID: PMC3706319  PMID: 23874674
7.  Investigating Acid Production by Streptococcus mutans with a Surface-Displayed pH-Sensitive Green Fluorescent Protein 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e57182.
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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057182
PMCID: PMC3585301  PMID: 23468929
8.  Direct visualization of the interaction between pilin and exopolysaccharides of Myxococcus xanthus with eGFP fused PilA protein 
FEMS microbiology letters  2011;326(1):23-30.
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.
doi:10.1111/j.1574-6968.2011.02430.x
PMCID: PMC3454480  PMID: 22092602
Type IV Pilin; Exopolysaccharides; Biofilm; Fruiting body; Confocal laser scanning microscopy; eGFP
9.  DNA Builds and Strengthens the Extracellular Matrix in Myxococcus xanthus Biofilms by Interacting with Exopolysaccharides 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e51905.
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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0051905
PMCID: PMC3530553  PMID: 23300576
10.  Community-based interference against integration of Pseudomonas aeruginosa into human salivary microbial biofilm 
Molecular Oral Microbiology  2011;26(6):337-352.
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.
doi:10.1111/j.2041-1014.2011.00622.x
PMCID: PMC3327514  PMID: 22053962
bacterial interference; microbial flora; oral cavity; Pseudomonas aeruginosa; salivary biofilm
11.  Molecular Characterization of the Microbiota Residing at the Apical Portion of Infected Root Canals of Human Teeth 
Journal of endodontics  2011;37(10):1359-1364.
Introduction
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusion
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.
doi:10.1016/j.joen.2011.06.020
PMCID: PMC3415298  PMID: 21924182
Apical periodontitis; endodontic infections; community profiling; polymerase chain reaction; denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis
12.  Alanine 32 in PilA is important for PilA stability and type IV pili function in Myxococcus xanthus 
Microbiology  2011;157(Pt 7):1920-1928.
Type IV pili (TFP) are membrane-anchored filaments with a number of important biological functions. In the model organism Myxococcus xanthus, TFP act as molecular engines that power social (S) motility through cycles of extension and retraction. TFP filaments consist of several thousand copies of a protein called PilA or pilin. PilA contains an N-terminal α-helix essential for TFP assembly and a C-terminal globular domain important for its activity. The role of the PilA sequence and its structure–function relationship in TFP-dependent S motility remain active areas of research. In this study, we identified an M. xanthus PilA mutant carrying an alanine to valine substitution at position 32 in the α-helix, which produced structurally intact but retraction-defective TFP. Characterization of this mutant and additional single-residue variants at this position in PilA demonstrated the critical role of alanine 32 in PilA stability, TFP assembly and retraction.
doi:10.1099/mic.0.049684-0
PMCID: PMC3167889  PMID: 21493683
13.  The influence of iron availability on human salivary microbial community composition 
Microbial Ecology  2012;64(1):152-161.
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.
doi:10.1007/s00248-012-0013-2
PMCID: PMC3376180  PMID: 22318873
iron availability; microbial flora; oral cavity
14.  Adherence to Streptococci facilitates Fusobacterium nucleatum integration into an oral microbial community 
Microbial Ecology  2011;63(3):532-542.
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.
doi:10.1007/s00248-011-9989-2
PMCID: PMC3313671  PMID: 22202886
coaggregation; Fusobacterium nucleatum; microbial flora; oral cavity; community resistance
15.  Identifying Low pH Active and Lactate-Utilizing Taxa within Oral Microbiome Communities from Healthy Children Using Stable Isotope Probing Techniques 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e32219.
Background
Many human microbial infectious diseases including dental caries are polymicrobial in nature. How these complex multi-species communities evolve from a healthy to a diseased state is not well understood. Although many health- or disease-associated oral bacteria have been characterized in vitro, their physiology within the complex oral microbiome is difficult to determine with current approaches. In addition, about half of these species remain uncultivated to date with little known besides their 16S rRNA sequence. Lacking culture-based physiological analyses, the functional roles of uncultivated species will remain enigmatic despite their apparent disease correlation. To start addressing these knowledge gaps, we applied a combination of Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS) with RNA and DNA based Stable Isotope Probing (SIP) to oral plaque communities from healthy children for in vitro temporal monitoring of metabolites and identification of metabolically active and inactive bacterial species.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Supragingival plaque samples from caries-free children incubated with 13C-substrates under imposed healthy (buffered, pH 7) and diseased states (pH 5.5 and pH 4.5) produced lactate as the dominant organic acid from glucose metabolism. Rapid lactate utilization upon glucose depletion was observed under pH 7 conditions. SIP analyses revealed a number of genera containing cultured and uncultivated taxa with metabolic capabilities at pH 5.5. The diversity of active species decreased significantly at pH 4.5 and was dominated by Lactobacillus and Propionibacterium species, both of which have been previously found within carious lesions from children.
Conclusions/Significance
Our approach allowed for identification of species that metabolize carbohydrates under different pH conditions and supports the importance of Lactobacilli and Propionibacterium in the development of childhood caries. Identification of species within healthy subjects that are active at low pH can lead to a better understanding of oral caries onset and generate appropriate targets for preventative measures in the early stages.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0032219
PMCID: PMC3293899  PMID: 22403637
16.  Natural Transformation of Myxococcus xanthus▿† 
Journal of Bacteriology  2011;193(9):2122-2132.
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.
doi:10.1128/JB.00041-11
PMCID: PMC3133062  PMID: 21378184
17.  Rapid Probing of Biological Surfaces with a Sparse-Matrix Peptide Library 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e23551.
Finding unique peptides to target specific biological surfaces is crucial to basic research and technology development, though methods based on biological arrays or large libraries limit the speed and ease with which these necessary compounds can be found. We reasoned that because biological surfaces, such as cell surfaces, mineralized tissues, and various extracellular matrices have unique molecular compositions, they present unique physicochemical signatures to the surrounding medium which could be probed by peptides with appropriately corresponding physicochemical properties. To test this hypothesis, a naïve pilot library of 36 peptides, varying in their hydrophobicity and charge, was arranged in a two-dimensional matrix and screened against various biological surfaces. While the number of peptides in the matrix library was very small, we obtained “hits” against all biological surfaces probed. Sequence refinement of the “hits” led to peptides with markedly higher specificity and binding activity against screened biological surfaces. Genetic studies revealed that peptide binding to bacteria was mediated, at least in some cases, by specific cell-surface molecules, while examination of human tooth sections showed that this method can be used to derive peptides with highly specific binding to human tissue.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0023551
PMCID: PMC3156232  PMID: 21858167
18.  Experimentally Guided Computational Model Discovers Important Elements for Social Behavior in Myxobacteria 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(7):e22169.
Identifying essential factors in cellular interactions and organized movement of cells is important in predicting behavioral phenotypes exhibited by many bacterial cells. We chose to study Myxococcus xanthus, a soil bacterium whose individual cell behavior changes while in groups, leading to spontaneous formation of aggregation center during the early stage of fruiting body development. In this paper, we develop a cell-based computational model that solely relies on experimentally determined parameters to investigate minimal elements required to produce the observed social behaviors in M. xanthus. The model verifies previously known essential parameters and identifies one novel parameter, the active turning, which we define as the ability and tendency of a cell to turn to a certain angle without the presence of any obvious external factors. The simulation is able to produce both gliding pattern and spontaneous aggregation center formation as observed in experiments. The model is tested against several known M. xanthus mutants and our modification of parameter values relevant for the individual mutants produces good phenotypic agreements. This outcome indicates the strong predictive potential of our model for the social behaviors of uncharacterized mutants and their expected phenotypes during development.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0022169
PMCID: PMC3139613  PMID: 21811570
19.  Fusobacterium nucleatum Outer Membrane Proteins Fap2 and RadD Induce Cell Death in Human Lymphocytes▿  
Infection and Immunity  2010;78(11):4773-4778.
Bacterially induced cell death in human lymphocytes is an important virulence factor for pathogenic bacteria. Previously discovered mechanisms of bacterially induced cell death are predominantly based on the transfer of bacterial proteins to the target host cell, such as the toxins secreted through type I, II, and VI secretion systems or effector proteins injected through type III, IV, and Vb secretion systems. Here, we report a mechanism employed by the Gram-negative oral pathogen Fusobacterium nucleatum for cell death induction of human lymphocytes via two outer membrane proteins (OMPs), Fap2 and RadD, which share regions homologous to autotransporter secretion systems (type Va secretion systems). Genetic and physiological studies established that inactivation of the two OMPs led to significantly reduced ability to trigger cell death in Jurkat cells, while the corresponding double mutant was almost completely attenuated. Additional biochemical and molecular analyses demonstrated that cell-free F. nucleatum membranes are sufficient to induce cell death in Jurkat cells, suggesting that no active process or effector protein transfer was necessary to induce eukaryotic cell death.
doi:10.1128/IAI.00567-10
PMCID: PMC2976331  PMID: 20823215
20.  Exopolysaccharide-Independent Social Motility of Myxococcus xanthus 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(1):e16102.
Social motility (S motility), the coordinated movement of large cell groups on agar surfaces, of Myxococcus xanthus requires type IV pili (TFP) and exopolysaccharides (EPS). Previous models proposed that this behavior, which only occurred within cell groups, requires cycles of TFP extension and retraction triggered by the close interaction of TFP with EPS. However, the curious observation that M. xanthus can perform TFP-dependent motility at a single-cell level when placed onto polystyrene surfaces in a highly viscous medium containing 1% methylcellulose indicated that “S motility” is not limited to group movements. In an apparent further challenge of the previous findings for S motility, mutants defective in EPS production were found to perform TFP-dependent motility on polystyrene surface in methylcellulose-containing medium. By exploring the interactions between pilin and surface materials, we found that the binding of TFP onto polystyrene surfaces eliminated the requirement for EPS in EPS- cells and thus enabled TFP-dependent motility on a single cell level. However, the presence of a general anchoring surface in a viscous environment could not substitute for the role of cell surface EPS in group movement. Furthermore, EPS was found to serve as a self-produced anchoring substrate that can be shed onto surfaces to enable cells to conduct TFP-dependent motility regardless of surface properties. These results suggested that in certain environments, such as in methylcellulose solution, the cells could bypass the need for EPS to anchor their TPF and conduct single-cell S motility to promote exploratory movement of colonies over new specific surfaces.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0016102
PMCID: PMC3016331  PMID: 21245931
21.  Design and Characterization of an Acid-Activated Antimicrobial Peptide 
Chemical biology & drug design  2009;75(1):127-132.
Dental caries is a microbial biofilm infection in which the metabolic activities of plaque bacteria result in a dramatic pH decrease and shift the demineralization/ remineralization equilibrium on the tooth surface towards demineralization. In addition to causing a net loss in tooth minerals creation of an acidic environment favors growth of acid enduring and acid generating species, which causes further reduction in the plaque pH. In this study we developed a prototype antimicrobial peptide capable of achieving high activity exclusively at low environmental pH to target bacterial species like Streptococcus mutans that produce acid and thrive under the low pH conditions detrimental for tooth integrity. The features of clavanin A, a naturally occurring peptide rich in histidine and phenylalanine residues with pH-dependent antimicrobial activity, served as a design basis for these prototype “acid-activated peptides” (AAPs). Employing the major cariogenic species S. mutans as a model system, the two AAPs characterized in this study exhibited a striking pH-dependent antimicrobial activity which correlated well with the calculated charge distribution. This type of peptide represents a potential new way to combat dental caries.
doi:10.1111/j.1747-0285.2009.00904.x
PMCID: PMC2790279  PMID: 19878192
Targeted antimicrobial therapy; pH dependent antimicrobial activity; biofilm; Streptococcus mutans
22.  Transcriptional Profiles of Treponema denticola in Response to Environmental Conditions 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(10):e13655.
The periodontal pathogen T. denticola resides in a stressful environment rife with challenges, the human oral cavity. Knowledge of the stress response capabilities of this invasive spirochete is currently very limited. Whole genome expression profiles in response to different suspected stresses including heat shock, osmotic downshift, oxygen and blood exposure were examined. Most of the genes predicted to encode conserved heat shock proteins (HSPs) were found to be induced under heat and oxygen stress. Several of these HSPs also seem to be important for survival in hypotonic solutions and blood. In addition to HSPs, differential regulation of many genes encoding metabolic proteins, hypothetical proteins, transcriptional regulators and transporters was observed in patterns that could betoken functional associations. In summary, stress responses in T. denticola exhibit many similarities to the corresponding stress responses in other organisms but also employ unique components including the induction of hypothetical proteins.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0013655
PMCID: PMC2965109  PMID: 21048920
23.  In vitro communities derived from oral and gut microbial floras inhibit the growth of bacteria of foreign origins 
Microbial ecology  2010;60(3):665-676.
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.
doi:10.1007/s00248-010-9711-9
PMCID: PMC2954289  PMID: 20625712
24.  Oral-derived bacterial flora defends its domain by recognizing and killing intruders---- a molecular analysis using Escherichia coli as a model intestinal bacterium 
Microbial ecology  2010;60(3):655-664.
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.
doi:10.1007/s00248-010-9708-4
PMCID: PMC2954290  PMID: 20625713
25.  Targeted antimicrobial therapy against Streptococcus mutans establishes protective non-cariogenic oral biofilms and reduces subsequent infection 
Aim
Dental biofilms are complex communities composed largely of harmless bacteria. Certain pathogenic species including Streptococcus (S. mutans) can become predominant when host factors such as dietary sucrose intake imbalance the biofilm ecology. Current approaches to control S. mutans infection are not pathogen-specific and eliminate the entire oral community along with any protective benefits provided. Here, we tested the hypothesis that removal of S. mutans from the oral community through targeted antimicrobial therapy achieves protection against subsequent S. mutans colonization.
Methodology
Controlled amounts of S. mutans were mixed with S. mutans-free saliva, grown into biofilms and visualized by antibody staining and cfu quantization. Two specifically-targeted antimicrobial peptides (STAMPs) against S. mutans were tested for their ability to reduce S. mutans biofilm incorporation upon treatment of the inocula. The resulting biofilms were also evaluated for their ability to resist subsequent exogenous S. mutans colonization.
Results
S. mutans colonization was considerably reduced (9 ± 0.4 fold reduction, p=0.01) when the surface was preoccupied with saliva-derived biofilms. Furthermore, treatment with S. mutans-specific STAMPs yielded S. mutans-deficient biofilms with very significant protection against further S. mutans colonization (5min treatment: 38 ± 13 fold reduction p=0.01; 16 hr treatment: 96 ± 28 fold reduction p=0.07).
Conclusions
S. mutans infection is reduced by the presence of existing biofilms. Thus maintaining a healthy or “normal” biofilm through targeted antimicrobial therapy (such as the STAMPs) could represent an effective strategy for the treatment and prevention of S. mutans colonization in the oral cavity and caries progression.
PMCID: PMC2953616  PMID: 20737932
Targeted antimicrobial therapy; antimicrobial peptide; biofilm; Streptococcus mutans; protective colonization; caries

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