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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1998 Jan;64(1):27-33.

Anaerobic killing of oral streptococci by reduced, transition metal cations.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Rochester, New York 14642-8672, USA.


Reduced, transition metal cations commonly enhance oxidative damage to cells caused by hydroperoxides formed as a result of oxygen metabolism or added externally. As expected, the cations Fe2+ and Cu+ enhanced killing of Streptococcus mutans GS-5 by hydroperoxides. However, unexpectedly, they also induced lethal damage under fully anaerobic conditions in a glove box with no exposure to O2 or hydroperoxides from initial treatment with the cations. Sensitivities to anaerobic killing by Fe2+ varied among the organisms tested. The oral streptococci Streptococcus gordonii ATCC 10558, Streptococcus rattus FA-1, and Streptococcus sanguis NCTC 10904 were approximately as sensitive as S. mutans GS-5. Enterococcus hirae ATCC 9790, Actinomyces viscosus OMZ105E, and Actinomyces naeslundii WVU45 had intermediate sensitivity, while Lactobacillus casei ATCC 4646 and Escherichia coli B were insensitive. Killing of S. mutans GS-5 in response to millimolar levels of added Fe2+ occurred over a wide range of temperatures and pH. The organism was able to take up ferrous iron, but ferric reductase activity could not be detected. Chelators, uric acid, and thiocyanate were not effective inhibitors of the lethal damage. Sulfhydryl compounds, ferricyanide, and ferrocyanide were protective if added prior to Fe2+ exposure. Fe2+, but not Fe3+, acted to reduce the acid tolerance of glycolysis by intact cells of S. mutans. The reduction in acid tolerance appeared to be related directly to Fe2+ inhibition of F-ATPase, which could be assayed with permeabilized cells, isolated membranes, or F1 enzyme separated from membranes. Cu+ and Cu2+ also inhibited F-ATPase and sensitized glycolysis by intact cells to acid. All of these damaging actions occurred anaerobically and thus did not appear to involve reactive oxygen species.

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