Host factors, such as platelets, have been shown to enhance biofilm formation by oral commensal streptococci, inducing infective endocarditis (IE), but how bacterial components contribute to biofilm formation in vivo is still not clear. We demonstrated previously that an isogenic mutant strain of Streptococcus mutans deficient in autolysin AtlA (ΔatlA) showed a reduced ability to cause vegetation in a rat model of bacterial endocarditis. However, the role of AtlA in bacterial biofilm formation is unclear. In this study, confocal laser scanning microscopy analysis showed that extracellular DNA (eDNA) was embedded in S. mutans GS5 floes during biofilm formation on damaged heart valves, but an ΔatlA strain could not form bacterial aggregates. Semiquantification of eDNA by PCR with bacterial 16S rRNA primers demonstrated that the ΔatlA mutant strain produced dramatically less eDNA than the wild type. Similar results were observed with in vitro biofilm models. The addition of polyanethol sulfonate, a chemical lysis inhibitor, revealed that eDNA release mediated by bacterial cell lysis is required for biofilm initiation and maturation in the wild-type strain. Supplementation of cultures with calcium ions reduced wild-type growth but increased eDNA release and biofilm mass. The effect of calcium ions on biofilm formation was abolished in ΔatlA cultures and by the addition of polyanethol sulfonate. The VicK sensor, but not CiaH, was found to be required for the induction of eDNA release or the stimulation of biofilm formation by calcium ions. These data suggest that calcium ion-regulated AtlA maturation mediates the release of eDNA by S. mutans, which contributes to biofilm formation in infective endocarditis.
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