Differential response of Streptococcus mutans towards friend and foe in mixed-species cultures

Jinman Liu, Chenggang Wu, I. Hsiu Huang, Justin Merritt, Fengxia Qi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


In the oral biofilm, the 'mitis' streptococci are among the first group of organisms to colonize the tooth surface. Their proliferation is thought to be an important factor required for antagonizing the growth of cariogenic species such as Streptococcus mutans. In this study, we used a threespecies mixed culture to demonstrate that another ubiquitous early colonizing species, Veillonella parvula, can greatly affect the outcome of the competition between a pair of antagonists such as S. mutans and Streptococcus gordonii. Transcriptome analysis further revealed that S. mutans responds differentially to its friend (V. parvula) and foe (S. gordonii). In the mixed culture with S. gordonii, all but one of the S. mutans sugar uptake and metabolic genes were downregulated, while genes for alternative energy source utilization and H 2O 2 tolerance were upregulated, resulting in a slower but persistent growth. In contrast, when cultured with V. parvula, S. mutans grew equally well or better than in monoculture and exhibited relatively few changes within its transcriptome. When V. parvula was introduced into the mixed culture of S. mutans and S. gordonii, it rescued the growth inhibition of S. mutans. In this three-species environment, S. mutans increased the expression of genes required for the uptake and metabolism of minor sugars, while genes required for oxidative stress tolerance were downregulated. We conclude that the major factors that affect the competition between S. mutans and S. gordonii are carbohydrate utilization and H 2O 2 resistance. The presence of V. parvula in the tri-species culture mitigates these two major factors and allows S. mutans to proliferate, despite the presence of S. gordonii.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2433-2444
Number of pages12
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2011


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