Effect of environmental pH on enzyme activity and growth of Bacteroides gingivalis W50

A. S. McDermid, A. S. McKee, Phillip Marsh

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Since the pH of the gingival crevice increases from below neutrality in health to above pH 8 in disease, we decided to investigate the effect of environmental pH on the growth and enzyme activity of Bacteroides gingivalis W50. Cells were grown in a chemostat under hemin-excess conditions over a range of pH values; stable growth was observed only between pH 6.7 and 8.3, with the maximum yields obtained between pH 7.0 and 8.0. The enzyme profile of cells varied markedly with pH. Enzymes with a specificity for gingival connective tissue (collagenase, hyaluronidase) were produced optimally at or below neutral pH, whereas trypsinlike activity increased with the growth pH and was maximal at pH 8.0. Chymotrypsinlike activity was generally low, although its activity was highest at the extremes of growth pH, i.e., at pH 6.7 and 8.3. Inhibitor studies provided evidence that the breakdown of collagen involved the concerted action of both a collagenase and the trypsinlike enzyme. The ratio of trypsin to collagenolytic activity rose from 1:1 during growth at neutral pH and below to almost 7:1 during growth at pH 8.3. Thus B. gingivalis appears to be uniquely adapted as a periodontopathic organism in that environmental conditions likely to prevail during the initial stages of pocket development it produces maximally those enzymes with a tissue-damaging potential. Then, as the pH of the pocket rises during the host inflammatory response, the activity of the trypsinlike enzyme increases markedly, which may enable cells to inactivate key components of the host defenses such as immunoglobulins and complement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1096-1100
Number of pages5
JournalInfection and Immunity
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1988


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