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Caries Res. 2015;49(2):165-76. doi: 10.1159/000365296. Epub 2015 Jan 28.

Characterization of the arginolytic microflora provides insights into pH homeostasis in human oral biofilms.

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Department of Oral Biology, College of Dentistry, University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla., USA.


A selected group of oral bacteria commonly associated with dental health is capable of producing alkali via the arginine deiminase system (ADS), which has a profound impact on the pH of human oral biofilms. An increased risk for dental caries has been associated with reduced ADS activity of the bacteria in oral biofilms. Arginolytic bacterial strains from dental plaque samples of caries-free and caries-active adults were isolated and characterized to investigate the basis for differences in plaque ADS activity between individuals. Fifty-six ADS-positive bacterial strains were identified by 16S rRNA gene sequencing, and their ADS activity levels were compared under standard growth conditions. The spectrum of bacterial ADS activity ranged from 45.2 to 688.0 units (mg protein)(-1). Although Streptococcus sanguinis was the most prevalent species, other Streptococcus sp. were also represented. Biochemical assays carried out using 27 ADS-positive strains under conditions known to induce or repress ADS gene expression showed substantial variation in arginolytic activity in response to pH, oxygen and the availability of carbohydrate or arginine. This study reveals that the basis for the wide spectrum of arginolytic expression observed among clinical strains is, at least in part, attributable to differences in the regulation of the ADS within and between species. The results provide insights into the microbiological basis for intersubject differences in ADS activity in oral biofilms and enhance our understanding of dental caries as an ecologically driven disease in which arginine metabolism moderates plaque pH and promotes dental health.

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