Streptococcus mutans, a member of the human oral flora, is a widely recognized etiological agent of dental caries. The cariogenic potential of S. mutans is related to its ability to metabolize a wide variety of sugars, form a robust biofilm, produce copious amounts of lactic acid, and thrive in the acid environment that it generates. The remarkable genetic variability present within the species is reflected at the phenotypic level, notably in the differences in the cariogenic potential between strains. However, the genetic basis of these differences is yet to be elucidated. In this study, we surveyed by PCR and DNA hybridization the distribution of putative virulence genes, genomic islands, and insertion sequences across a collection of 33 strains isolated from either children with severe early childhood caries (S-ECC) or those who were caries free (CF). We found this genetically diverse group of isolates to be remarkably homogeneous with regard to the distribution of the putative virulence genes and genetic elements analyzed. Our findings point to the role of other factors in the pathogenesis of S-ECC, such as uncharacterized virulence genes, differences in gene expression and/or enzymatic activity, cooperation between S. mutans strains or with other members of the oral biota, and host factors.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Microbiology (medical)