Numerous in vitro and in vivo studies have shown there are bacteria that may promote oral health. Many of these bacteria have the ability to use the amino acid arginine to raise dental plaque pH, thus inhibiting the formation of cavities. Additionally, many of these potentially beneficial bacteria are able to interfere with the growth o oral pathogens, like Streptococcus mutans, and to block the ability of S. mutans to produce antibiotics that kill beneficial organisms. Thus, identifying isolates of these bacteria with poten beneficial properties and understanding how they modulate disease development would be tremendously valuable in controlling oral infectious diseases, like dental caries and periodontitis The work proposed here is built on the foundation that individual isolates display a profound spectrum of anti-cariogenic properties: in their capacity to utilize arginine via the arginine deiminase system; in their capacity to exert strong antagonistic effects on the growth of oral pathogens; and in their abilities to interfere with the deployment of antagonistic molecules by oral pathogens. When implemented, the study will yield a much-needed, thorough understanding of the genomic structure and associated phenotypic behaviors of a group of abundant commensal streptococci, along with the mechanisms by which these organisms exert probiotic effects in in vitro, in an animal model, and in the human oral cavity. To accomplish these goals, Aim 1 conducts a comparative and functional genomic analysis of a discrete group of low-passage, clinical isolates to characterize the mechanisms for their enhanced capacity to moderate pH through arginine metabolism, to dissect the diverse repertoire of strategies they employ to antagonize oral pathogens, to understand the genetic basis for the ability of these isolates to resist antagonistic molecules deployed by oral pathogens, and to identify genetic markers associated with isolates that have particularly beneficial properties.
In Aim 2, we will establish a mouse model of dental caries that is suitable for evaluating the capacity of, and the mechanisms by which, selected isolates from Aim 1 are able to inhibit establishment, persistence, and the initiation and progression of dental caries by S. mutans.
Aim 3 will contrast gene expression patterns in isolated human dental plaque from caries-active and caries-free subjects to understand how arginine metabolic pathways and the weapons of commensals and pathogens are deployed in health and disease, as well as to identify novel genetic biomarkers for health and disease. Collectively, the study will provide a comprehensive understanding of mechanisms of pro- and pre-biotic for control of dental caries and guide the development of effective probiotics and symbiotic, while providing the added benefit of enhancing the quality of oral health risk assessments.

Public Health Relevance

Dental caries, periodontal diseases and fungal infections of the oral cavity are all associated with changes in the composition of the microorganisms colonizing the tissues of the mouth; with certain bacteria being prominent in health and other organisms abundant in disease. Probiotic therapy, where naturally occurring bacteria with beneficial properties are used to promote health by preventing the establishment or outgrowth of pathogens, holds tremendous promise for control of oral diseases. The research to be conducted here unites the most current understanding of the cause of oral diseases with cutting-edge genomic, molecular, in vitro, in vivo and clinical studies to dissect the basis for probiotic effects of beneficial bacteria. Collectively, the research will establish a sound foundation for the design of new therapies to detect, diagnose and prevent dental caries and other oral infectious diseases.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Dental & Craniofacial Research (NIDCR)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1)
Program Officer
Lunsford, Dwayne
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of Florida
Schools of Dentistry/Oral Hygn
United States
Zip Code
Huang, Xuelian; Browngardt, Christopher M; Jiang, Min et al. (2018) Diversity in Antagonistic Interactions between Commensal Oral Streptococci and Streptococcus mutans. Caries Res 52:88-101
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
Shields, Robert C; Zeng, Lin; Culp, David J et al. (2018) Genomewide Identification of Essential Genes and Fitness Determinants of Streptococcus mutans UA159. mSphere 3:
Liu, Yuan; Palmer, Sara R; Chang, Hsiaochi et al. (2018) Differential oxidative stress tolerance of Streptococcus mutans isolates affects competition in an ecological mixed-species biofilm model. Environ Microbiol Rep 10:12-22
Burne, R A (2018) Getting to Know ""The Known Unknowns"": Heterogeneity in the Oral Microbiome. Adv Dent Res 29:66-70