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Mol Microbiol. 2011 Jul;81(2):305-14. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2011.07707.x. Epub 2011 Jun 3.

The pathogenic persona of community-associated oral streptococci.

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Center for Oral Health and Systemic Disease, School of Dentistry, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY 40202, USA.


The mitis group streptococci (MGS) are widespread in the oral cavity and are traditionally associated with oral health. However, these organisms have many attributes that contribute to the development of pathogenic oral communities. MGS adhere rapidly to saliva-coated tooth surfaces, thereby providing an attachment substratum for more overtly pathogenic organisms such as Porphyromonas gingivalis, and the two species assemble into heterotypic communities. Close physical association facilitates physiologic support, and pathogens such as Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans display resource partitioning to favour carbon sources generated by streptococcal metabolism. MGS exchange information with community members through a number of interspecies signalling systems including AI-2 and contact dependent mechanisms. Signal transduction systems induced in P. gingivalis are based on protein dephosphorylation mediated by the tyrosine phosphatase Ltp1, and converge on a LuxR-family transcriptional regulator, CdhR. Phenotypic responses in P. gingivalis include regulation of hemin uptake systems and gingipain activity, processes that are intimately linked to the virulence of the organism. Furthermore, communities of S. gordonii with P. gingivalis or with A. actinomycetemcomitans are more pathogenic in animal models than the constituent species alone. We propose that MGS should be considered accessory pathogens, organisms whose pathogenic potential only becomes evident in the context of a heterotypic microbial community.

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