Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, Department of


Date of this Version

June 1983


Published in Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Vol. 409 (June 1983), pp. 688–696. Copyright © 1983 New York Academy of Sciences. Used by permission.


Streptococcus mutans is a principal etiologic agent of dental caries and is likely one of the most ubiquitous bacterial infectious disease agents worldwide. The ability of S. mutans to colonize the oral cavity is due to sucroseindependent and sucrose-dependent adherence to the pellicle-coated tooth surface with glucan facilitated aggregation between cells to result in plaque. Cariogenicity is then caused by the ability of S. mutans in plaque to metabolize free sugars and both extra and intracellular complex carbohydrates to yield predominantly lactic acid. The S. mutans gene products that contribute to colonizing ability and thus virulence include glucosyltransferases, glucanbinding proteins, and a diversity of less well-characterized cell-surface proteins and carbohydrate antigens that may also promote adherence or aggregation.