Inactivation of Streptococcus mutans genes lytST and dltAD impairs its pathogenicity in vivo
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Background: Streptococcus mutans orchestrates the development of a biofilm that causes dental caries in the presence of dietary sucrose, and, in the bloodstream, S. mutans can cause systemic infections. The development of a cariogenic biofilm is dependent on the formation of an extracellular matrix rich in exopolysaccharides, which contains extracellular DNA (eDNA) and lipoteichoic acids (LTAs). While the exopolysaccharides are virulence markers, the involvement of genes linked to eDNA and LTAs metabolism in the pathogenicity of S. mutans remains unclear. Objective and Design: In this study, a parental strain S. mutans UA159 and derivative strains carrying single gene deletions were used to investigate the role of eDNA (ΔlytS and ΔlytT), LTA (ΔdltA and ΔdltD), and insoluble exopolysaccharides (ΔgtfB) in virulence in a rodent model of dental caries (rats) and a systemic infection model (Galleria mellonella larvae). Results: Fewer carious lesions were observed on smooth and sulcal surfaces of enamel and dentin of the rats infected with ∆lytS, ∆dltD, and ΔgtfB (vs. the parental strain). Moreover, strains carrying gene deletions prevented the killing of larvae (vs. the parental strain). Conclusions: Altogether, these findings indicate that inactivation of lytST and dltAD impaired S. mutans cariogenicity and virulence in vivo.