Genomic Instability of TnSMU2 Contributes to Streptococcus Mutans Biofilm Development and Competence in a cidB Mutant

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© 2019 The Authors. MicrobiologyOpen published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Streptococcus mutans is a key pathogenic bacterium in the oral cavity and a primary contributor to dental caries. The S. mutans Cid/Lrg system likely contributes to tolerating stresses encountered in this environment as cid and/or lrg mutants exhibit altered oxidative stress sensitivity, genetic competence, and biofilm phenotypes. It was recently noted that the cidB mutant had two stable colony morphologies: a “rough” phenotype (similar to wild type) and a “smooth” phenotype. In our previously published work, the cidB rough mutant exhibited increased sensitivity to oxidative stress, and RNAseq identified widespread transcriptomic changes in central carbon metabolism and oxidative stress response genes. In this current report, we conducted Illumina-based genome resequencing of wild type, cidB rough, and cidB smooth mutants and compared their resistance to oxidative and acid stress, biofilm formation, and competence phenotypes. Both cidB mutants exhibited comparable aerobic growth inhibition on agar plates, during planktonic growth, and in the presence of 1 mM hydrogen peroxide. The cidB smooth mutant displayed a significant competence defect in BHI, which was rescuable by synthetic CSP. Both cidB mutants also displayed reduced XIP-mediated competence, although this reduction was more pronounced in the cidB smooth mutant. Anaerobic biofilms of the cidB smooth mutant displayed increased propidium iodide staining, but corresponding biofilm CFU data suggest this phenotype is due to cell damage and not increased cell death. The cidB rough anaerobic biofilms showed altered structure relative to wild type (reduced biomass and average thickness) which correlated with decreased CFU counts. Sequencing data revealed that the cidB smooth mutant has a unique “loss of read coverage” of ~78 kb of DNA, corresponding to the genomic island TnSMU2 and genes flanking its 3′ end. It is therefore likely that the unique biofilm and competence phenotypes of the cidB smooth mutant are related to its genomic changes in this region.