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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2006 Apr;72(4):2837-48.

Molecular characterization of subject-specific oral microflora during initial colonization of enamel.

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  • 1Oral Infection and Immunity Branch, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, National Institutes of Health, Building 30, Room 310, 30 Convent Dr., Bethesda, MD 20892-4350, USA.


The initial microbial colonization of tooth surfaces is a repeatable and selective process, with certain bacterial species predominating in the nascent biofilm. Characterization of the initial microflora is the first step in understanding interactions among community members that shape ensuing biofilm development. Using molecular methods and a retrievable enamel chip model, we characterized the microbial diversity of early dental biofilms in three subjects. A total of 531 16S rRNA gene sequences were analyzed, and 97 distinct phylotypes were identified. Microbial community composition was shown to be statistically different among subjects. In all subjects, however, 4-h and 8-h communities were dominated by Streptococcus spp. belonging to the Streptococcus oralis/Streptococcus mitis group. Other frequently observed genera (comprising at least 5% of clone sequences in at least one of the six clone libraries) were Actinomyces, Gemella, Granulicatella, Neisseria, Prevotella, Rothia, and Veillonella. Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) confirmed that the proportion of Streptococcus sp. sequences in the clone libraries coincided with the proportion of streptococcus probe-positive organisms on the chip. FISH also revealed that, in the undisturbed plaque, not only Streptococcus spp. but also the rarer Prevotella spp. were usually seen in small multigeneric clusters of cells. This study shows that the initial dental plaque community of each subject is unique in terms of diversity and composition. Repetitive and distinctive community composition within subjects suggests that the spatiotemporal interactions and ecological shifts that accompany biofilm maturation also occur in a subject-dependent manner.

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