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Streptococcus mutans is a heterotrophic organism.  This means that Streptococcus mutans cannot synthesize reduced organic compounds from inorganic sources and that it must obtain them by eating other organisms (Freeman).  A heterotrophic organism must live off of another organism by eating another organism or using them as a host.  The human oral cavity is the host of S. mutans.

How does S. mutans eat?

Image found in Microsoft Frontpage clipart.S. mutans have no mouth but they do posses special channels in their cell walls and membranes which allow or aid molecules to cross.  This is how they get their food.  However the surrounding environment of S. mutans is not always full of free-floating molecules to feed off of.  Instead the molecules may be bound together in tissues in the human mouth.  If this is the case the bacteria leak enzymes out into the environment around them which attack the specific tissues and break them down into small pieces.  When the tissue is small enough they are consumed by the bacteria.

What does S. mutans eat?

S. mutans metabolizes high molecular weight dextrans and other glucans from sucrose but not from other sugars.  This sucrose is then used to produce polysaccharides.  These polysaccharides are stored to be later utilized as reserve carbon and energy sources for construction of lactic acid which aids in the destruction of tooth enamel.



Questions or Comments? Contact Amber Allmann.