Blackwell Publishing Journal Backfiles 1879-2005
Streptococcus mutans is a component of the dental plaque biofilm and a major causal agent of dental caries. Log-phase cells of the organism are known to induce an acid tolerance response (ATR) at sub-lethal pH values (∼5.5) that enhances survival at lower pH values such as those encountered in caries lesions. In this study, we have employed a rod biofilm chemostat system to demonstrate that, while planktonic cells induced a strong ATR at pH 5.5, biofilm cells were inherently more acid resistant than such cells in spite of a negligible induction of an ATR. Since these results suggested that surface growth itself triggered an ATR in biofilm cells, we were interested in comparing the effects of a pH change from 7.5 to 5.5 on protein synthesis by the two cell types. For this, cells were pulse labeled with [14C]-amino acids following the pH change to pH 5.5, the proteins extracted and separated by two-dimensional (2D) electrophoresis followed by autoradiography and computer-assisted image analysis. A comparison between the cells incubated at pH 5.5 and the control biofilm cells revealed 23 novel proteins that were absent in the control cells, and 126 proteins with an altered relative rate of synthesis. While the number of changes in protein expression in the biofilm cells was within the same range as for planktonic cells, the magnitude of their change was significantly less in biofilm cells, supporting the observation that acidification of biofilm cells induced a negligible ATR. Mass spectrometry and computer-assisted protein sequence analysis revealed that ATR induction of the planktonic cells resulted in the downregulation of glycolytic enzymes presumably to limit cellular damage by the acidification of the external environment. On the other hand, the glycolytic enzymes in control biofilm cells were significantly less downregulated and key enzymes, such as lactate dehydrogenase were upregulated during pH 5.5 incubation, suggesting that the enhanced acid resistance of biofilm cells is associated with the maintenance of pH homeostasis by H+ extrusion via membrane ATPase and increased lactate efflux.
Type of Medium: