Disruption of the adh (Acetoin Dehydrogenase) Operon Has Wide-Ranging Effects on Streptococcus mutans Growth and Stress Response

Peter Zuber, Michiko M. Nakano, Jessica K. Kajfasz, José A. Lemos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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The agent largely responsible for initiating dental caries, Streptococcus mutans, produces acetoin dehydrogenase that is encoded by the adh operon. The operon consists of the adhA and B genes (E1 dehydrogenase), adhC (E2 lipoylated transacetylase), adhD (E3 dihydrolipoamide dehydrogenase), and lplA (lipoyl ligase). Evidence is presented that AdhC interacts with SpxA2, a redox-sensitive transcription factor functioning in cell wall and oxidative stress responses. In-frame deletion mutations of adh genes conferred oxygen-dependent sensitivity to slightly alkaline pH (pH 7.2–7.6), within the range of values observed in human saliva. Growth defects were also observed when glucose or sucrose served as major carbon sources. A deletion of the adhC orthologous gene, acoC gene of Streptococcus gordonii, did not result in pH sensitivity or defective growth in glucose and sucrose. The defects observed in adh mutants were partially reversed by addition of pyruvate. Unlike most 2-oxoacid dehydrogenases, the E3 AdhD subunit bears an N-terminal lipoylation domain nearly identical to that of E2 AdhC. Changing the lipoyl domains of AdhC and AdhD by replacing the lipoate attachment residue, lysine to arginine, caused no significant reduction in pH sensitivity but the adhDK43R mutation eliminating the lipoylation site resulted in an observable growth defect in glucose medium. The adh mutations were partially suppressed by a deletion of rex, encoding an NAD1/NADH-sensing transcription factor that represses genes functioning in fermentation. spxA2 adh double mutants show synthetic growth restriction at elevated pH and upon ampicillin treatment. These results suggest a role for Adh in stress management in S. mutans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00578-21
JournalJournal of bacteriology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2022


  • Acetoin dehydrogenase
  • Lipoylation
  • SpxA2
  • Streptococcus mutans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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