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FEMS Microbiol Rev. 1992 Jun;8(3-4):199-209.

On the relative importance of specific and non-specific approaches to oral microbial adhesion.

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Laboratory for Materia Technica, University of Groningen, Netherlands.


In this paper, it is suggested that specificity and non-specificity in (oral) microbial adhesion are different expressions for the same phenomena. It is argued that the same basic, physicochemical forces are responsible for so-called 'non-specific' and 'specific' binding and that from a physico-chemical point of view the distinction between the two is an artificial one. Non-specific interactions arise from Van der Waals and electrostatic forces and hydrogen bonding, and originate from the entire cell. A specific bond consists of a combination of the same type of Van der Waals and electrostatic forces and hydrogen bonding, now originating from highly localized chemical groups, which together form a stereochemical combination. The absence or presence of specific receptor sites on microbial cell surfaces must therefore be reflected in the overall, non-specific surface properties of cells as well. This point is illustrated by showing that glucan-binding lectins on mutans streptococcal strains may determine the pH dependence of the zeta potentials of these cells. When studying microbial adhesion, a non-specific approach may be better suited to explain adhesion to inert substrata, whereas a specific approach may be preferred in case of adhesion to adsorbed protein films. Adhesion is, however, not as important in plaque formation in the human oral cavity as is retention, because low shear force periods, during which adhesion presumably occurs, are followed by high shear force periods, during which adhering cells must withstand these detachment forces. Evidence is provided that such detachment will be through cohesive failure in the pellicle mass, the properties of which are conditioned by the overall, non-specific substratum properties. Therefore, in vivo plaque formation may be more readily explained by a non-specific approach.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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