Commensal Streptococcus sanguinis and Streptococcus gordonii are pioneer oral biofilm colonizers. Characteristic for both is the SpxB-dependent production of H2O2, which is crucial for inhibiting competing biofilm members, especially the cariogenic species Streptococcus mutans. H2O2 production is strongly affected by environmental conditions, but few mechanisms are known. Dental plaque pH is one of the key parameters dictating dental plaque ecology and ultimately oral health status. Therefore, the objective of the current study was to characterize the effects of environmental pH on H2O2 production by S. sanguinis and S. gordonii. S. sanguinis H2O2 production was not found to be affected by moderate changes in environmental pH, whereas S. gordonii H2O2 production declined markedly in response to lower pH. Further investigation into the pyruvate node, the central metabolic switch modulating H2O2 or lactic acid production, revealed increased lactic acid levels for S. gordonii at pH 6. The bias for lactic acid production at pH 6 resulted in concomitant improvement in the survival of S. gordonii at low pH and seems to constitute part of the acid tolerance response of S. gordonii. Differential responses to pH similarly affect other oral streptococcal species, suggesting that the observed results are part of a larger phenomenon linking environmental pH, central metabolism, and the capacity to produce antagonistic amounts of H2O2.
- Microbial ecology
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Food Science
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology