University at Buffalo
The Witebsky Center

The Witebsky Center
University at Buffalo
Bacteriology Host-Microbe Interactions Immunology Parasitology Virology
The Witebsky Center The Witebsky Center
Frank Scannapieco, D.M.D., Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Oral Biology
109 Foster Hall
School of Dental Medicine
University at Buffalo
Buffalo, NY 14214

Telephone: (716) 829-3373
Fax: (716) 829-3942


Synopsis of Research

Our research program focuses on factors which mediate microbial colonization of the oral cavity, particularly saliva-bacterium interactions such as the binding of salivary amylase to Streptococcus gordonii. Our studies have established that amylase (the most abundant enzyme in saliva) binds with high affinity to the surface of these oral streptococci (one of the most numerous organisms in dental plaque). Presently, we have identified at least two streptococcal genes involved in  amylase-binding. Amylase-binding deficient mutant strains of S. gordonii have been selected. Ongoing studies will clarify the role of this gene product on bacterial colonization and plaque formation.

A second ongoing investigation involves the study of Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans (Aa), a bacterium implicated in the pathogenesis of localized juvenile periodontitis (LJP). Fresh isolates of Aa cultured on agar form rough, adherent colonies which spontaneously convert to smooth, minimally adherent colonies upon subculture. The rough colony variant produces abundant fimbriae, autoaggregates in broth media and forms a biofilm on glass composed of thick, tightly packed cells. The smooth colony variant demonstrates scant fimbriation and forms a thinner biofilm with an open architecture. We have identified two rough phenotype-specific proteins of 43 kDa and 20 kDa. The genes encoding these proteins have been identified, cloned, and sequenced. These genes appear to form part of a  fimbrial gene operon. Studies are in progress to characterize this operon and to construct mutants in which various genes within the operon are disrupted. These mutants will be characterized with respect to function.  

A third ongoing study explores associations between oral health and respiratory disease. Our recent findings suggest that respiratory pathogens  colonize the teeth of hospitalized and nursing-home patients, who are at great risk of respiratory infection. These studies suggest that the oral cavity of these patients is colonized to a much greater extent by potential respiratory pathogens than ambulatory subjects. Additional studies focus on oral health in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Our long term goal is to learn if inhibiting dental plaque formation can diminish the risk for respiratory infection in hospitalized and chronically subjects.  


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