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Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2011 Apr;55(4):1460-9. doi: 10.1128/AAC.01094-10. Epub 2011 Jan 31.

Role of VltAB, an ABC transporter complex, in viologen tolerance in Streptococcus mutans.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, Molecular Genetics, and Immunology, University of Kansas Medical Centre, Kansas City, Kansas 66160, USA.


Streptococcus mutans, a Gram-positive organism, is the primary causative agent in the formation of dental caries in humans. To persist in the oral cavity, S. mutans must be able to tolerate rapid environmental fluctuations and exposure to various toxic chemicals. However, the mechanisms underlying the ability of this cariogenic pathogen to survive and proliferate under harsh environmental conditions remain largely unknown. Here, we wanted to understand the mechanisms by which S. mutans withstands exposure to methyl viologen (MV), a quaternary ammonium compound (QAC) that generates superoxide radicals in the cell. To elucidate the essential genes for MV tolerance, screening of ∼3,500 mutants generated by ISS1 mutagenesis, revealed 15 MV-sensitive mutants. Among them, five and four independent insertions had occurred in SMU.905 and SMU.906 genes, respectively. These two genes are appeared to be organized in an operon and encode a putative ABC transporter complex; we designated the genes as vltA and vltB, for viologen transporter. To verify our results, vltA was deleted by using an antibiotic resistance marker; the mutant was just as sensitive to MV as the ISS1 insertion mutants. Furthermore, vltA and vltB mutants were also sensitive to other viologen compounds such as benzyl and ethyl viologens. Complementation assays were also carried out to confirm the role of VltA and VltB in viologen tolerance. Sensitivity to various drugs, including a wide range of QACs, was evaluated. It appears that a functional VltA is also required for full resistance toward acriflavin, ethidium bromide, and safranin; all are well-known QACs. These results indicate that VltA/B constitute a heterodimeric multidrug efflux pump of the ABC family. BLAST-P analysis suggests that homologs of VltA/B are widely present in streptococci, enterococci, and other important Gram-positive pathogens.

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