The antigen I/II family of surface proteins is expressed by oral streptococci, including Streptococcus mutans, and mediates specific binding to, among others, salivary films. The aim of this study was to investigate the interaction forces between salivary proteins and S. mutans with (LT11) and without (IB03987) antigen I/II through atomic force microscopy (AFM) and to relate these interaction forces with the adhesion of the strains to saliva-coated glass in a parallel plate flow chamber. Upon approach of the bacteria toward a saliva-coated AFM tip, both strains experienced a similar repulsive force that was significantly smaller at pH 6.8 (median 3.0 and 3.1 nN for LT11 and IB03987, respectively) than at pH 5.8 (median 4.6 and 4.7 nN). The decay length of these repulsive forces was between 19 and 37 nm. Upon retraction at pH 6.8, the combined specific and nonspecific adhesion forces were significantly stronger for the parent strain LT11 (median -0.4 nN) than for the mutant strain IB03987 (median 0.0 nN), whereas at pH 5.8 the median of the adhesion forces measured was 0.0 nN for both strains. Moreover, at pH 6.8, the parent strain LT11 adhered in significantly higher numbers (9.6 x 10(6) cm(-2)) to a salivary coating than the mutant strain IB03987 (2.5 x 10(6) cm(-2)). Similar to the difference in adhesion forces between both strains at pH 5.8, the difference in adhesion between both strains also disappeared at pH 5.8, which suggests the involvement of attractive electrostatic forces in the interaction between antigen I/II and salivary coatings. In summary, this study shows that antigen I/II at the surface of S. mutans LT11 is responsible for its increased adhesion to salivary coatings under flow through an additional attractive electrostatic force.
- SURFACE PROTEIN