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J Dent Res. 1996 Aug;75(8):1564-71.

Utilization of sialic acid by viridans streptococci.

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Joint Microbiology Research Unit, King's College School of Medicine and Dentistry, Faculty of Clinical Dentistry, London, England.


The importance of viridans streptococci as agents of serious extra-oral diseases, including endocarditis, is now recognized. We have tested the hypothesis that the ability to utilize sialic acid as a nutrient source may play a role in the proliferation of these organisms. The type strains of the 15 presently recognized species of viridans streptococci and two clinical isolates-S. oralis (AR3), isolated from a patient with infective endocarditis, and S. intermedius (UNS35), a brain abscess isolate-were studied for their ability to utilize sialic acid. Only S. oralis, S. sanguis, S. gordonii, S. mitis ("oralis group") S. intermedius, S. anginosus, S. constellatus ("milleri group"), and S. defectivus ("nutritionally variant group") were able to use sialic acid (N-acetylneuraminic acid) efficiently as a sole carbon source. Formate, acetate, and ethanol were produced as the major metabolic end-products of sialic acid metabolism, while corresponding glucose-grown cultures produced lactate as the major metabolic end-product. Utilization of sialic acid was independent of the production of sialidase. Cell-free extracts of sialic acid-grown cultures expressed elevated levels of N-acetylneuraminate pyruvate-lyase (NPL; the first enzyme in the intracellular catabolism of sialic acid) and N-acetylglucosamine-6-phosphate (GlcNAc-6-P) deacetylase and glucosamine-6-phosphate (GlcN-6-P) deaminase (enzymes involved in the intracellular catabolism of N-acetylglucosamine). These activities were repressed by growth in the presence of glucose. The intracellular fate of sialic acid, after cleavage by NPL into N-acetylmannosamine (ManNAc) and pyruvate, is uncertain, but the elevated levels of GlcNAc-6-P deacetylase and GlcN-6-P deaminase in sialic acid-grown cells suggest that phosphorylation and isomerization are possible steps in the metabolism of ManNAc to generate an intermediate common to the pathway of N-acetylglucosamine metabolism. The species of viridans streptococci that have the ability to utilize sialic acid are those most commonly associated with extra-oral diseases, and this ability is likely to play a role in the persistence and survival of these infecting organisms in vivo.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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