investigating acid production by Streptococcus mutans with a surface-displayed pH-sensitive green fluorescent protein
Guo L, Hu W, He X, Lux R, McLean J, Shi W
Acidogenicity and aciduricity are the main virulence factors of the cavity-causing bacterium Streptococcus mutans. Monitoring at the individual cell level the temporal and spatial distribution of acid produced by this important oral pathogen is central for our understanding of these key virulence factors especially when S. mutans resides in multi-species microbial communities. In this study, we explored the application of pH-sensitive green fluorescent proteins (pHluorins) to investigate these important features. Ecliptic pHluorin was functionally displayed on the cell surface of S. mutans as a fusion protein with SpaP. The resulting strain (O87) was used to monitor temporal and spatial pH changes in the microenvironment of S. mutans cells under both planktonic and biofilm conditions. Using strain O87, we revealed a rapid pH drop in the microenviroment of S. mutans microcolonies prior to the decrease in the macro-environment pH following sucrose fermentation. Meanwhile, a non-uniform pH distribution was observed within S. mutans biofilms, reflecting differences in microbial metabolic activity. Furthermore, strain O87 was successfully used to monitor the S. mutans acid production profiles within dual- and multispecies oral biofilms. Based on these findings, the ecliptic pHluorin allows us to investigate in vivo and in situ acid production and distribution by the cariogenic species S. mutans.