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Decoding the Streptococcal Language

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The genus Streptococcus is composed of Gram positive Firmicutes, and includes pathogens, commensals, as well as bacteria important for the food industry. Most streptococci are chronic colonizers, whether in the human nasopharynx such as S. pneumoniae, in the human mouth or teeth such as S. mutans, mitis or ...

The genus Streptococcus is composed of Gram positive Firmicutes, and includes pathogens, commensals, as well as bacteria important for the food industry. Most streptococci are chronic colonizers, whether in the human nasopharynx such as S. pneumoniae, in the human mouth or teeth such as S. mutans, mitis or salivarius or growing naturally in milk products such as S. thermophilus. During chronic colonization, many streptococci survive through forming a biofilm.
This mode of growth is optimal for established communities as well as dissemination to new environments. Biofilms are notoriously recalcitrant to antibiotic treatment, posing a major challenge in the treatment of pathogens. During biofilm growth, streptococci must sense external stimuli and respond in a coordinated fashion mediated by communication across bacterial cells.

This process can be conceptualized as a streptococcal “language”, where secreted peptides function as “words” and transcriptional regulators as “ears”. In this set of articles we review current knowledge on the peptides and the signaling mechanisms employed by streptococci to integrate information from the environment, including nutrient availability, oxygen, temperature or pH changes, and the presence of neighboring/competing communities all of which can result in altered gene expression that impacts survival.


Keywords: Streptococcus, cell-cell communication, biofilms, signaling, bacteriocins


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