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Keywords:

  • Fusobacterium nucleatum subspecies;
  • amino acid utilization;
  • strain adaptation;
  • glutamate effect;
  • physiology

Human isolates of Fusobacterium nucleatum subspecies appear to colonize different niches in the oral cavity, which may be reflected in their nutritional properties. Consequently the utilization of nitrogenous substrates, their sources of energy (supplied here as amino acids) were compared between the 3 subspecies using the reference strain and fresh clinical isolates of each subspecies. All strains incorporated mainly acidic and basic amino acids but significant differences occurred between subspecies. Both reference and clinical isolates of F. nucleatum subspecies polymorphum utilized all amino acids in the medium but the levels of glutamate, arginine and cysteine were noticeably higher in the reference strain. By contrast, F. nucleatum subspecies fusiform used a very restricted range of amino acids, of which only glutamate, arginine, histidine and cysteine were taken up at greater than 0.5 mM. F. nucleatum subspecies nucleatum utilized fewer amino acids than F. nucleatum subspecies polymorphum but higher concentrations were taken up by the former. Clinical isolates of F. nucleatum subspecies nucleatum incorporated polar and nonpolar neutral amino acids poorly but their levels increased steadily as a clinical isolate was subcultured over a period of 4 months, and was eventually similar to the reference strain. The effect of adding the key catabolic substrate, glutamate (10 mM), on the amino acid uptake profile of F. nucleatum subspecies nucleatum resulted in the complete suppression of the dibasic amino acids arginine, ornithine and histidine. Strains of this subspecies could grow on glutamate as a major source of carbon and energy but, morphologically, the cells appeared somewhat distended and had a tendency to clump.