The complex populations of bacteria that colonize the oral cavity must be able to coordinate the metabolism of the wide variety of carbohydrates that are presented in salivary secretions and in the human diet. There is also intense competition between different species of bacteria for these limiting nutrients. In cases when dietary carbohydrates are provided in excess and the host develops dental caries, Streptococcus mutans and other acid-resistant species emerge as significant constituents of dental biofilms as a direct result of their capacity to grow and to continue to metabolize carbohydrates in acidified environments. Therefore, the persistence of the oral microbiome, the diversity of the oral microbiome, and the degree to which the oral microbiome is pathogenic are dictated by the genetic, biochemical and physiologic responses of these organisms to the source and availability of carbohydrates. Not surprisingly, then, the availability of metabolizable carbohydrates appears to be the single most important environmental factor affecting the composition and pathogenic potential of human dental plaque. The goals of this research are to provide a comprehensive understanding of the molecular basis for how the source and amount of carbohydrate modifies gene expression in the dental caries pathogen Streptococcus mutans. These studies utilize the most modern methods in molecular biology - coupled with the use of continuous-flow bioreactors to carefully control the physiology of the bacteria - to dissect how the source and the availability of carbohydrates modulate the pathogenic potential of the organisms.

Public Health Relevance

Dental caries is an infectious disease that affects a large proportion of the world's population. This disease occurs when the tooth is damaged by bacteria on the tooth surface that produce acids from sugars. The goals of this research are to understand how the bacteria that cause caries coordinate the uptake and metabolism of sugars to maximize their growth and acid production. The project has high public health relevance because of the widespread nature of the disease and the high potential of the research to identify new technologies for the prevention or treatment of dental caries. The findings are also highly relevant to a variety of other human pathogens that are genetically and physiologically similar to the bacteria that cause dental caries.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Dental & Craniofacial Research (NIDCR)
Research Project (R01)
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Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-MOSS-B (03))
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Lunsford, Dwayne
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University of Florida
Schools of Dentistry
United States
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Bowen, William H; Burne, Robert A; Wu, Hui et al. (2018) Oral Biofilms: Pathogens, Matrix, and Polymicrobial Interactions in Microenvironments. Trends Microbiol 26:229-242
Zeng, Lin; Chen, Lulu; Burne, Robert A (2018) Preferred Hexoses Influence Long-Term Memory in and Induction of Lactose Catabolism by Streptococcus mutans. Appl Environ Microbiol 84:
Zeng, Lin; Chakraborty, Brinta; Farivar, Tanaz et al. (2017) Coordinated Regulation of the EIIMan and fruRKI Operons of Streptococcus mutans by Global and Fructose-Specific Pathways. Appl Environ Microbiol 83:
Moye, Zachary D; Son, Minjun; Rosa-Alberty, Ariana E et al. (2016) Effects of Carbohydrate Source on Genetic Competence in Streptococcus mutans. Appl Environ Microbiol 82:4821-4834
Zeng, Lin; Burne, Robert A (2016) Sucrose- and Fructose-Specific Effects on the Transcriptome of Streptococcus mutans, as Determined by RNA Sequencing. Appl Environ Microbiol 82:146-56
Zeng, Lin; Farivar, Tanaz; Burne, Robert A (2016) Amino Sugars Enhance the Competitiveness of Beneficial Commensals with Streptococcus mutans through Multiple Mechanisms. Appl Environ Microbiol 82:3671-82
Kim, Jeong Nam; Ahn, Sang-Joon; Burne, Robert A (2015) Genetics and Physiology of Acetate Metabolism by the Pta-Ack Pathway of Streptococcus mutans. Appl Environ Microbiol 81:5015-25
Zeng, Lin; Burne, Robert A (2015) NagR Differentially Regulates the Expression of the glmS and nagAB Genes Required for Amino Sugar Metabolism by Streptococcus mutans. J Bacteriol 197:3533-44
Moye, Zachary D; Zeng, Lin; Burne, Robert A (2014) Fueling the caries process: carbohydrate metabolism and gene regulation by Streptococcus mutans. J Oral Microbiol 6:
Moye, Zachary D; Burne, Robert A; Zeng, Lin (2014) Uptake and metabolism of N-acetylglucosamine and glucosamine by Streptococcus mutans. Appl Environ Microbiol 80:5053-67

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