Caption: Bacteria on an epithelial cells from the human tongue filiform papillae. In this scanning electron micrograph (SEM) coccoid bacteria are seen on the epithelial surface (left corner). The coccoid bacteria are likely Streptococcus mutans due to the fibrous glucan matrix that is seen surrounding the cells. Most bacteria on the human tongue are harmless or even beneficial. However some bacteria can cause throat infections and form plaque deposits on teeth. Plaque will also lead to tooth decay and periodontal disease. S. mutans is a coccoid shaped, Gram-positive, facultative anaerobic bacteria that is part of the normal bacteria flora of the mouth. It can thrive in temperatures ranging from 18-40 degrees Celsius. It metabolizes sucrose to lactic acid and is a leading cause of tooth enamel decay. The acidic environment created in the mouth by this process is what causes the highly mineralized tooth enamel to decay. S. mutans is one of a few specialized organisms equipped with receptors for adhesion to the surface of teeth. Sucrose is utilized by S. mutans to produce a sticky, extracellular, dextran-based polysaccharide (glucan) that allows them to adhere to each other forming plaque. Other sugars (glucose, fructose, lactose) can be digested by S. mutans to produce lactic acid.
Magnification*: x1,400
Type: SEM
Copyright 2009 Dennis Kunkel Microscopy, Inc.
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