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Arch Oral Biol. 1988;33(10):727-33.

The bacteria responsible for ureolysis in artificial dental plaque.

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Dental Research Unit, Medical Research Council of New Zealand, Wellington.


The origin of ureolytic activity in artificial-mouth plaques was established by assessing the contribution to plaque ureolytic activity of the isolated bacteria. To overcome losses of ureolytic activity caused by the unstable presence of urease in oral bacteria, ureolytic bacteria were isolated from an exceptionally active plaque (1 mumol NH3/min per mg protein) in which 63 per cent of the flora was ureolytic. After their ability to metabolize urea was stabilized, 13 ureolytic bacteria remained: seven strains of Streptococcus salivarius, one Streptococcus bovis, two Staphylococcus epidermidis and three Staphylococcus haemolyticus. Their urease activity, measured after growth into stationary phase, was reproducible and strain specific with a 20-fold range within each genus. The mean ureolytic activity of each species, when weighted by its calculated incidence in the original plaque, accounted for 40 per cent of the total plaque ureolytic activity. However, these values for urease levels were only a small fraction of the bacterial ureolytic potential. Urease per mg cell protein measured during the growth cycle of a selected Strep. salivarius, and Staph. epidermidis, varied 10-fold, and reached much higher activities (i.e. 6-8 mumol NH3/min per mg of cell protein) than under the growth conditions that were used to assess the contribution of these species to total plaque ureolysis. Thus urea metabolism in artificial plaque was due mainly to Strep. salivarius, with a small contribution from Staph. epidermidis. The presence of further unidentified species of ureolytic oral bacteria need not be invoked.

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