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Scientists sequence oral pathogen Fusobacterium nucleatum


Researchers have sequenced Fusobacterium nucleatum, an oral bacterium found in the normal flora of the mouth that plays a role in periodontal disease. The sequencing revealed that the metabolic capabilities of F. nucleatum are consistent with its specialized niche in the mouth. Further microarray and proteomics experiments are expected to provide potential drug targets to treat periodontal diseases.

Fusobacterium nucleatum cells coaggregating with Porphyromonas gingivalis cells.

Although F. nucleatum is not considered a major dental pathogen on its own, it can adhere to a wide range of other plague organisms, such as Porphyromonas gingivalis, and contribute to the development of periodontitis.

“Genome data have revealed several adhesin proteins that might interact with dental pathogens, although only one has been experimentally shown to interact with P. gingivalis and various human cell types,” the scientists write in Journal of Bacteriology. The study was led by Vinayak Kapatral and Iain Anderson of Integrated Genomics in Chicago, Illinois.

The F. nucleatum genome of strain ATCC 25586 consists of a single circular chromosome and does not contain any plasmids even though plasmids have been found in other strains. Of the 2,067 genes, 67 percent were known to the researchers and 3.5 percent were found to be unique to F. nucleatum.

Fusobacteria, the most common of which is F. nucleatum, are known to act as ‘bridge organisms’ in dental plaque by coaggregating with colonizers of the mouth. These interactions contribute to the microbial diversity of dental plaque.

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Kapatral, V. et al. Genome sequence and analysis of the oral bacterium Fusobacterium nucleatum strain ATCC 25586. J Bacteriol 184, 2005-2018 (April 2002).

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