• pyruvate dehydrogenase;
  • galactose;
  • tagatose path


Streptococcus mutans is a member of the dental plaque and is the primary causative agent of dental caries. It can survive extended periods of starvation, which may occur in different niches within the oral cavity. We have found that mucin compensated for the absence of amino acids to promote exponential growth and biofilm formation of S. mutans in minimal medium supplemented with glucose and sucrose, respectively. Mucin extended survival in conditions where there was no net growth provided the operon encoding the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex was intact. Mucin extended survival in conditions of amino acid sufficiency provided the tagatose pathway for galactose utilization was intact, suggesting that S. mutans can scavenge sufficient galactose from mucin to enhance survival, although not to serve as a primary carbon and energy source. The results suggest that mucin has a metabolic role in promoting survival of S. mutans.