The oligopeptide (opp) gene cluster of Streptococcus mutans: identification, prevalence, and characterization


Rita C.C. Ferreira, Department of Microbiology, Biomedical Sciences Institute, University of São Paulo, Avenida Prof. Lineu Prestes, 1374 Cidade Universitária, SP, Brazil 05508-000
Tel.: +55 11 30917408;
fax: +55 11 30917354;


Introduction:  The Opp system is an ATP-binding cassette-type transporter formed by membrane-associated proteins required for the uptake of oligopeptides in bacteria. In gram-positive bacteria, the Opp system, and particularly the oligopeptide-binding protein (OppA), has been shown to be involved in different aspects of cell physiology, including intercellular communication and binding to host proteins.

Methods:  In the present study we began to investigate the Opp system of Streptococcus mutans, the main etiological agent of dental caries.

Results:  Five opp genes (oppABCDF) organized in a single operon were identified in the genome of the S. mutans UA159 strain. Amino acid sequence analyses showed that the S. mutans OppA is closely related to an ortholog found in Streptococcus agalactiae. Incubation of S. mutans UA159 cells with an anti-OppA-specific serum did not inhibit biofilm formation on polystyrene plates. Moreover, S. mutans UA159 derivatives carrying deletions on the oppA or oppB genes did not show significant growth impairment, increased sensitivity to aminopterin, or defective capacity to form biofilms on polystyrene wells in the presence or not of saliva. Remarkably, only two out of three laboratory strains and one out of seven clinical strains recovered from tooth decay processes harbored a copy of the oppA gene and expressed the OppA protein.

Conclusion:  Collectively, these results indicate that, in contrast to other Streptococcus species, the S. mutans Opp system, and particularly the OppA protein, does not represent an important trait required for growth and colonization.