• Identification and Genetic Characterisation of Melibiose-Negative Isolates of Streptococcus mutans

      Colby, S.M.; Harrington, Dean J.; Russell, R.R.B. (1995)
      Streptococcus mutans is frequently identified on the basis of phenotypic characteristics such as the ability to ferment carbohydrates. The usefulness of some of these identification tests may be limited in the case of isolates which are atypical with regard to their fermentation properties. We previously identified isolates of S. mutans which were unable to ferment melibiose, a characteristic which is included in some typing schemes. In all of these isolates there was a large chromosomal deletion which included the multiple sugar metabolism (msm) operon which encodes several genes involved in the uptake and metabolism of a number of sugars including melibiose. In the present study, sugar fermentation tests, ribotyping, colony hybridisation with DNA probes and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) were used to investigate the relatedness of these atypical isolates. The PCR and colony hybridisation procedures were based on amplification and detection of two genes: the wapA gene which encodes a surface protein found in all S. mutans strains and the gtfA gene which lies within the msm operon. The colony hybridisation and PCR results confirmed loss of the gtfA gene in the melibiose-negative isolates. Three new melibiose-negative isolates were also identified, but in only 2 of these was the gtfA gene absent, the third did not appear to have lost this region of the chromosome. Biotyping, as well as ribotyping based on an EcoRl digest of chromosomal DNA, revealed that the melibiose-negative isolates fell into a number of distinct groups. The identification of an isolate which is unable to ferment melibiose but does not appear to have lost the msm operon indicates that the melibiose-negative phenotype can arise from more than one type of genetic event.