Tannerella forsythia is an important pathogen in periodontal disease. Previously, we showed that its sialidase activity is key to utilization of sialic acid from a range of human glycoproteins for biofilm growth and initial adhesion. Removal of terminal sialic acid residues often exposes β-linked glucosamine or galactosamine, which may also be important adhesive molecules. In turn, these residues are often removed by a group of enzymes known as β-hexosaminidases. We show here that T. forsythia has the ability to cleave glucosamine and galactosamine from model substrates and that this activity can be inhibited by the hexosaminidase inhibitor PugNAc (O-(2-acetamido-2-deoxy-d-glucopyranosylidene)amino N-phenyl carbamate). We now demonstrate for the first time that β-hexosaminidase activity plays a role in biofilm growth on glycoprotein-coated surfaces because biofilm growth and initial cell adhesion are inhibited by PugNAc. In contrast, adhesion to siallo-glycoprotein-coated surfaces is unaltered by PugNAc in the absence of sialidase activity (using a sialidase-deficient mutant) or surprisingly on the clinically relevant substrates saliva or serum. These data indicate that β-hexosaminidase activity has a significant role in biofilm formation in combination with sialidase activity in the biofilm lifestyle of T. forsythia.
© 2012 Federation of European Microbiological Societies. Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd. All rights reserved.