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Oral Microbiol Immunol. 2005 Dec;20(6):323-32.

Mechanisms of inhibition by fluoride of urease activities of cell suspensions and biofilms of Staphylococcus epidermidis, Streptococcus salivarius, Actinomyces naeslundii and of dental plaque.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology & Immunology, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY 14642-8672, USA.



Fluoride is known to be a potent inhibitor of bacterial ureases and can also act in the form of hydrofluoric acid as a transmembrane proton conductor to acidify the cytoplasm of intact cells with possible indirect, acid inhibition of urease. Our research objectives were to assess the inhibitory potencies of fluoride for three urease-positive bacteria commonly found in the mouth and to determine the relative importance of direct and indirect inhibition of ureases for overall inhibition of intact cells or biofilms.


The experimental design involved intact bacteria in suspensions, mono-organism biofilms, cell extracts, and dental plaque. Standard enzymatic assays for ammonia production from urea were used.


We found that ureolysis by cells in suspensions or mono-organism biofilms of Staphylococcus epidermidis, Streptococcus salivarius or Actinomyces naeslundii was inhibited by fluoride at plaque levels of 0.1-0.5 mm in a pH-dependent manner. The results of experiments with the organic weak acids indomethacin and capric acid, which do not directly inhibit urease enzyme, indicated that weak-acid effects leading to cytoplasmic acidification are also involved in fluoride inhibition. However, direct fluoride inhibition of urease appeared to be the major mechanism for reduction in ureolytic activity in acid environments. Results of experiments with freshly harvested supragingival dental plaque indicated responses to fluoride similar to those of S. salivarius with pH-dependent fluoride inhibition and both direct and indirect inhibition of urease.


Fluoride can act to diminish alkali production from urea by oral bacteria through direct and indirect mechanisms.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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