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Arch Oral Biol. 1989;34(1):43-53.

Arginolytic and ureolytic activities of pure cultures of human oral bacteria and their effects on the pH response of salivary sediment and dental plaque in vitro.

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Department of Oral Biology and Pathology, School of Dental Medicine, State University of New York, Stony Brook 11794.


Thirty-nine different microorganisms commonly found in supragingival plaque and salivary sediment were screened for their ability to raise the pH by producing base from arginine, lysylarginine and urea. Only Actinomyces naeslundii and Staphylococcus epidermidis showed significant pH-rise activity with all three compounds. Eleven bacteria demonstrated such activity with arginine and lysylarginine but not with urea. Only one, Actinomyces viscosus, produced a pH-rise with urea but not with the two arginine compounds. The remaining 26 bacteria showed little or no base-forming activity with any of the three test substrates. The ability of the different oral bacteria to produce base (especially from urea) was a less universal function than their ability to produce acid from fermentable carbohydrate. Substituting pure cultures of arginolytic or non-arginolytic bacteria for portions of the mixed bacterial populations of plaque or sediment in test incubations containing glucose and arginine altered their ability to produce pH-fall-pH-rise responses shaped like those of the Stephen curve in vivo. In general, addition of arginolytic bacteria made these in vitro pH responses less acidic, whereas addition of non-arginolytic bacteria made the responses more acidic. Because of the relatively high arginolytic activity of the plaque harvested in this study, the effect of adding non-arginolytic bacteria was more readily seen than the converse. Similar changes in levels of ureolytic microorganisms and incubation with glucose and urea had little effect on sediment or plaque being able to produce a pH-fall-pH-rise type of response. When increasing proportions of the mixed bacteria in salivary sediment were replaced with the highly cariogenic Lactobacillus casei or Streptococcus mutans, the pH minimum became slightly more acidic and then slightly more alkaline, whereas the pH-rise became progressively and significantly less. Thus arginolytic bacteria have a different and greater effect on shaping the pH response of plaque or sediment than ureolytic bacteria. A large change in the proportions of arginolytic or non-arginolytic microorganisms may be needed to make a plaque microflora potentially non-cariogenic or cariogenic, respectively.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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