The human mucosal surface is colonized by the indigenous microflora, which normally maintains an ecological balance among different species. Certain environmental or biological factors, however, may trigger disruption of this balance, leading to microbial diseases. In this study, we used two oral bacterial species, Streptococcus mutans and Streptococcus sanguinis (formerly S. sanguis), as a model to probe the possible mechanisms of competition/ coexistence between different species which occupy the same ecological niche. We show that the two species engage in a multitude of antagonistic interactions temporally and spatially; occupation of a niche by one species precludes colonization by the other, while simultaneous colonization by both species results in coexistence. Environmental conditions, such as cell density, nutritional availability, and pH, play important roles in determining the outcome of these interactions. Genetic and biochemical analyses reveal that these interspecies interactions are possibly mediated through a well-regulated production of chemicals, such as bacteriocins (produced by S. mutans) and hydrogen peroxide (produced by S. sanguinis). Consistent with the phenotypic characteristics, production of bacteriocins and H2O2 are regulated by environmental conditions, as well as by juxtaposition of the two species. These sophisticated interspecies interactions could play an essential part in balancing competition/coexistence within multispecies microbial communities.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology