Fusobacterium nucleatum is a ubiquitous member of the human oral flora and is associated with the development of periodontitis and a variety of other types of polymicrobial infections of the mucosa. In the oral cavity, this species is one of the few that is prevalent in both healthy and diseased subgingival plaque. Using microarray analysis, we examined the transcriptional response of F. nucleatum subspecies nucleatum to whole blood in order to identify some of the genetic responses that might occur during the transition from health to disease. From these studies, we identified a sialic acid catabolism operon that was induced by the presence of blood. We subsequently confirmed that this operon was inducible by the presence of synthetic sialic acid, but we found no evidence suggesting sialic acid was used as a major carbon source. However, this organism was found to possess a de novo synthesized surface sialylation ability that is widely conserved among the various F. nucleatum subspecies as well as in F. periodonticum. We provide evidence that fusobacterial sialylation does occur in the oral cavity irrespective of health status. Interestingly, only a minority of fusobacterial cells exhibit surface sialylation within dental plaque, whereas most cells are uniformly sialylated when grown in pure culture. The implications of these results are discussed.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)