Glycosyltransferase-mediated biofilm matrix dynamics and virulence of Streptococcus mutans

Katherine Rainey, Suzanne M. Michalek, Zezhang T. Wen, Hui Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Streptococcus mutans is a key cariogenic bacterium responsible for the initiation of tooth decay. Biofilm formation is a crucial virulence property. We discovered a putative glycosyltransferase, SMU_833, in S. mutans capable of modulating dynamic interactions between two key biofilm matrix components, glucan and extracellular DNA (eDNA). The deletion of smu_833 decreases glucan and increases eDNA but maintains the overall biofilm biomass. The decrease in glucan is caused by a reduction in GtfB and GtfC, two key enzymes responsible for the synthesis of glucan. The increase in eDNA was accompanied by an elevated production of membrane vesicles, suggesting that SMU_833 modulates the release of eDNA via the membrane vesicles, thereby altering biofilm matrix constituents. Furthermore, glucan and eDNA were colocalized. The complete deletion of gtfBC from the smu_833 mutant significantly reduced the biofilm biomass despite the elevated eDNA, suggesting the requirement of minimal glucans as a binding substrate for eDNA within the biofilm. Despite no changes in overall biofilm biomass, the mutant biofilm was altered in biofilm architecture and was less acidic in vitro. Concurrently, the mutant was less virulent in an in vivo rat model of dental caries, demonstrating that SMU_833 is a new virulence factor. Taken together, we conclude that SMU_833 is required for optimal biofilm development and virulence of S. mutans by modulating extracellular matrix components. Our study of SMU_833-modulated biofilm matrix dynamics uncovered a new target that can be used to develop potential therapeutics that prevent and treat dental caries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere02247-18
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Biofilms
  • EDNA
  • Extracellular matrix
  • Glucans
  • Glycosyltransferases
  • Streptococcus mutans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Ecology


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