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J Appl Microbiol. 2010 Jun;108(6):2103-13. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2672.2009.04616.x. Epub 2009 Nov 4.

Structural organization and dynamics of exopolysaccharide matrix and microcolonies formation by Streptococcus mutans in biofilms.

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Eastman Department of Dentistry, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY 14642, USA.



To investigate the structural organization and dynamics of exopolysaccharides (EPS) matrix and microcolonies formation by Streptococcus mutans during the biofilm development process.


Biofilms of Strep. mutans were formed on saliva-coated hydroxyapatite (sHA) discs in the presence of glucose or sucrose (alone or mixed with starch). At specific time points, biofilms were subjected to confocal fluorescence imaging and computational analysis. EPS matrix was steadily formed on sHA surface in the presence of sucrose during the first 8 h followed by a threefold biomass increase between 8 and 30 h of biofilm development. The initial formation and further development of three-dimensional microcolony structure occurred concomitantly with EPS matrix synthesis. Tridimensional renderings showed EPS closely associated with microcolonies throughout the biofilm development process forming four distinct domains (i) between sHA surface and microcolonies, (ii) within, (iii) covering and (iv) filling the spaces between microcolonies. The combination of starch and sucrose resulted in rapid formation of elevated amounts of EPS matrix and faster assembly of microcolonies by Strep. mutans, which altered their structural organization and susceptibility of the biofilm to acid killing (vs sucrose-grown biofilms; P < 0.05).


Our data indicate that EPS modulate the development, sequence of assembly and spatial distribution of microcolonies by Strep. mutans.


Simultaneous visualization and analysis of EPS matrix and microcolonies provide a more precise examination of the structural organization of biofilms than labelling bacteria alone, which could be a useful approach to elucidate the exact mechanisms by which Strep. mutans influences oral biofilm formation and possibly identify novel targets for effective antibiofilm therapies.

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