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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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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Moye, Zachary D; Zeng, Lin; Burne, Robert A (2014) Modification of gene expression and virulence traits in Streptococcus mutans in response to carbohydrate availability. Appl Environ Microbiol 80:972-85
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
Zeng, Lin; Choi, Sang Chul; Danko, Charles G et al. (2013) Gene regulation by CcpA and catabolite repression explored by RNA-Seq in Streptococcus mutans. PLoS One 8:e60465
Zeng, Lin; Burne, Robert A (2013) Comprehensive mutational analysis of sucrose-metabolizing pathways in Streptococcus mutans reveals novel roles for the sucrose phosphotransferase system permease. J Bacteriol 195:833-43
Zeng, L; Xue, P; Stanhope, M J et al. (2013) A galactose-specific sugar:ýýphosphotransferase permease is prevalent in the non-core genome of Streptococcus mutans. Mol Oral Microbiol 28:292-301
Wen, Z T; Nguyen, A H; Bitoun, J P et al. (2011) Transcriptome analysis of LuxS-deficient Streptococcus mutans grown in biofilms. Mol Oral Microbiol 26:2-18
Tong, Huichun; Zeng, Lin; Burne, Robert A (2011) The EIIABMan phosphotransferase system permease regulates carbohydrate catabolite repression in Streptococcus gordonii. Appl Environ Microbiol 77:1957-65
Zeng, Lin; Das, Satarupa; Burne, Robert A (2011) Genetic analysis of the functions and interactions of components of the LevQRST signal transduction complex of Streptococcus mutans. PLoS One 6:e17335
Zeng, Lin; Das, Satarupa; Burne, Robert A (2010) Utilization of lactose and galactose by Streptococcus mutans: transport, toxicity, and carbon catabolite repression. J Bacteriol 192:2434-44
Zeng, Lin; Burne, Robert A (2010) Seryl-phosphorylated HPr regulates CcpA-independent carbon catabolite repression in conjunction with PTS permeases in Streptococcus mutans. Mol Microbiol 75:1145-58

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