Environmental stress perception activates structural remodeling of extant Streptococcus mutans biofilms

Patrick Marx, Yu Sang, Hua Qin, Qingjing Wang, Rongkai Guo, Carmem Pfeifer, Jens Kreth, Justin Merritt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Transcription regulators from the LexA-like Protein Superfamily control a highly diverse assortment of genetic pathways in response to environmental stress. All characterized members of this family modulate their functionality and stability via a strict coordination with the coprotease function of RecA. Using the LexA-like protein IrvR from Streptococcus mutans, we demonstrate an exception to the RecA paradigm and illustrate how this evolutionary innovation has been coopted to diversify the stress responsiveness of S. mutans biofilms. Using a combination of genetics and biophysical measurements, we demonstrate how non-SOS stresses and SOS stresses each trigger separate regulatory mechanisms that stimulate production of a surface lectin responsible for remodeling the viscoelastic properties of extant biofilms during episodes of environmental stress. These studies demonstrate how changes in the external environment or even anti-biofilm therapeutic agents can activate biofilm-specific adaptive mechanisms responsible for bolstering the integrity of established biofilm communities. Such changes in biofilm community structure are likely to play central roles in the notorious recalcitrance of biofilm infections.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number17
Journalnpj Biofilms and Microbiomes
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Microbiology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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