Streptococcus mutans strains recovered from caries-active or caries-free individuals differ in sensitivity to host antimicrobial peptides

Mol Oral Microbiol. 2011 Jun;26(3):187-99. doi: 10.1111/j.2041-1014.2011.00607.x. Epub 2011 Jan 31.


Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are among the repertoire of host innate immune defenses. In the oral cavity, several AMPs are present in saliva and have antimicrobial activities against oral bacteria, including Streptococcus mutans, a primary etiological agent of dental caries. In this study, we hypothesized that unique S. mutans strains, as determined by DNA fingerprinting from sixty 13-year-old subjects with or without experience of caries, would have different susceptibilities to α-defensins-1-3 (HNP-1-3), β-defensins-2-3 (HBD-2-3) and LL-37. The salivary levels of these peptides in subjects were also measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays. We found that S. mutans strains from children with active caries showed greater resistance to salivary HNP-1-2, HBD-2-3 and LL-37 at varying concentrations than those from caries-free subjects. In addition, combinations of these peptides increased their antimicrobial activity against S. mutans either additively or synergistically. The salivary levels of these peptides were highly variable among subjects with no correlation to host caries experience. However, the levels of a number of these peptides in saliva appeared to be positively correlated within an individual. Our findings suggest that the relative ability of S. mutans to resist host salivary AMPs may be considered a potential virulence factor for this species such that S. mutans strains that are more resistant to these peptides may have an ecological advantage to preferentially colonize within dental plaque and increase the risk of dental caries.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anti-Infective Agents / pharmacology
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / pharmacology*
  • Bacterial Load
  • DMF Index
  • DNA Fingerprinting
  • Dental Caries / microbiology*
  • Dental Plaque / microbiology
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Lipopolysaccharides / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Multigene Family
  • Saliva / microbiology
  • Salivary Proteins and Peptides / pharmacology
  • Streptococcus mutans / classification*
  • Streptococcus mutans / drug effects
  • Tooth / microbiology*
  • alpha-Defensins / pharmacology
  • beta-Defensins / pharmacology


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides
  • DEFB103A protein, human
  • DEFB4A protein, human
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Salivary Proteins and Peptides
  • alpha-Defensins
  • beta-Defensins
  • human neutrophil peptide 1
  • human neutrophil peptide 2
  • human neutrophil peptide 3
  • ropocamptide