Polyphosphate-accumulating bacteria: Potential contributors to mineral dissolution in the oral cavity

Ashley A. Breiland, Beverly E. Flood, Julia Nikrad, John Bakarich, Matthew Husman, Taek Hyun Rhee, Robert S. Jones, Jake V. Bailey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Scopus citations


Bacteria that accumulate polyphosphates have previously been shown to dynamically influence the solubility of phosphatic minerals in marine settings and wastewater. Here, we show that dental plaque, saliva, and carious lesions all contain abundant polyphosphate-accumulating bacteria. Saturation state modeling results, informed by phosphate uptake experiments using the model organism Lactobacillus rhamnosus, which is known to inhabit advanced carious lesions, suggest that polyphosphate accumulation can lead to undersaturated conditions with respect to hydroxyapatite under some oral cavity conditions. The cell densities of polyphosphate-accumulating bacteria we observed in some regions of oral biofilms are comparable to those that produce undersaturated conditions (i.e., those that thermodynamically favor mineral dissolution) in our phosphate uptake experiments with L. rhamnosus. These results suggest that the localized generation of undersaturated conditions by polyphosphate- accumulating bacteria constitutes a new potential mechanism of tooth dissolution that may augment the effects of metabolic acid production.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere02440-17
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 1 2018


  • Dental caries
  • Oral biofilms
  • Polyphosphate

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