Objective: Dental caries is one of the most common infectious diseases in humans. Older adults retain more teeth than did earlier generations and thus are at high risk of root caries. The root surface is covered by cementum, which facilitates the spread of caries lesions into dentinal tissues. Propionibacterium acidifaciens has been detected in dentinal caries lesions; however, the pathogenetic mechanisms are not known. The purpose of this study was to investigate the pathogenic mechanisms of cariogenic P. acidifaciens. Methods: Saliva-induced aggregation of P. acidifaciens cells and adherence of the organism to saliva-coated hydroxyapatite were examined. Coaggregation of P. acidifaciens with other bacterial cells and binding of the organism to collagen were examined. Effect of Streptococcus mutans on the biofilm formation by P. acidifaciens was also examined. In addition, the effects of acids on the growth of P. acidifaciens were evaluated. Results: P. acidifaciens exhibited strong binding to collagen but weak or moderate interaction with salivary proteins. P. acidifaciens showed weak coaggregation with streptococcal strains and Fusobacerium nucleatum. Biofilm formation by P. acidifaciens was inhibited by S. mutans. Moreover, P. acidifaciens tolerated to self-produced acids up to threshold concentrations. Conclusions: The results suggest that P. acidifaciens can bind to and survive inside dentinal tissue, and its acid production at low pH condition is involved in the development of dentinal caries.
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