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Role of hydrogen peroxide in competition and cooperation between Streptococcus gordonii and Actinomyces naeslundii

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Nicholas JakubovicsORCiD


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In dental plaque alpha-haemolytic streptococci, including Streptococcus gordonii, are considered beneficial for oral health. These organisms produce hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) at concentrations sufficient to kill many oral bacteria. Streptococci do not produce catalase yet tolerate H2O2. We recently demonstrated that coaggregation with Actinomyces naeslundii stabilizes arginine biosynthesis in S. gordonii. Protein arginine residues are sensitive to oxidation by H2O2. Here, the ability of A. naeslundii to protect S. gordonii against self-produced H2O2 was investigated. Coaggregation with A. naeslundii enabled S. gordonii to grow in the absence of arginine, and promoted survival of S. gordonii following growth with or without added arginine. Arginine-replete S. gordonii monocultures contained 20-30 mu M H2O2 throughout exponential growth. Actinomyces naeslundii did not produce H2O2 but synthesized catalase, removed H2O2 from coaggregate cultures and decreased protein oxidation in S. gordonii. On solid medium, S. gordonii inhibited growth of A. naeslundii; exogenous catalase overcame this inhibition. In coaggregate cultures, A. naeslundii cell numbers were > 90% lower than in monocultures after 24 h. These results indicate that coaggregation with A. naeslundii protects S. gordonii from oxidative damage. However, high cell densities of S. gordonii inhibit A. naeslundii. Therefore, H2O2 may drive these organisms towards an ecologically balanced community in natural dental plaque.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Jakubovics NS, Gill SR, Vickerman MM, Kolenbrander PE

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: FEMS Microbiology Ecology

Year: 2008

Volume: 66

Issue: 3

Pages: 637-644

ISSN (print): 0168-6496

ISSN (electronic): 1574-6941

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


DOI: 10.1111/j.1574-6941.2008.00585.x


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Funder referenceFunder name
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
National Institutes of Health
DE11090National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research