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Antimicrobial and antibiofilm effects of abietic acid on cariogenic Streptococcus mutans

  • Yuki Ito
  • Takashi Ito
  • Keisuke Yamashiro
  • Fumi Mineshiba
  • Kimito Hirai
  • Kazuhiro Omori
  • Tadashi Yamamoto
  • Shogo TakashibaEmail author
Original Article


Dental caries is a type of oral microbiome dysbiosis and biofilm infection that affects oral and systemic conditions. For healthy life expectancy, natural bacteriostatic products are ideal for daily and lifetime use as anti-oral infection agents. This study aimed to evaluate the inhibitory effects of abietic acid, a diterpene derived from pine rosin, on the in vitro growth of cariogenic bacterial species, Streptococcus mutans. The effective minimum inhibitory concentration of abietic acid was determined through observation of S. mutans growth, acidification, and biofilm formation. The inhibitory effects of abietic acid on the bacterial membrane were investigated through the use of in situ viability analysis and scanning electron microscopic analysis. Cytotoxicity of abietic acid was also examined in the context of several human cell lines using tetrazolium reduction assay. Abietic acid was found to inhibit key bacterial growth hallmarks such as colony forming ability, adenosine triphosphate activity (both planktonic and biofilm), acid production, and biofilm formation. Abietic acid was identified as bacteriostatic, and this compound caused minimal damage to the bacterial membrane. This action was different from that of povidone-iodine or cetylpyridinium chloride. Additionally, abietic acid was significantly less cytotoxic compared to povidone-iodine, and it exerted lower toxicity towards epithelial cells and fibroblasts compared to that against monocytic cells. These data suggest that abietic acid may prove useful as an antibacterial and antibiofilm agent for controlling S. mutans infection.


Abietic acid Streptococcus mutans Antimicrobial Oral biofilm Terpene 



The authors would like to thank Prof. Teruo Kuroda, Department of Microbiology, School of Pharmaceutical sciences, Hiroshima University, for his support from the beginning of this research. We would like to express our gratitude to Prof. Hiroshi Maeda, Department of Endodontics, Osaka Dental University, for his continuous dedication to this work.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

All authors have no conflict of interest regarding this paper.

Supplementary material

10266_2019_456_MOESM1_ESM.tiff (33.2 mb)
Supplementary Fig. 1: Structural formula of abietic acid: Terpenes consist of isoprene units with 5 carbons. Abietic acid is a diterpene derived from four isoprenes (molecular weight: 302.44)


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Copyright information

© The Society of The Nippon Dental University 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Pathophysiology-Periodontal ScienceOkayama University Graduate School of Medicine, Dentistry and Pharmaceutical SciencesOkayamaJapan
  2. 2.Center for Innovative Clinical MedicineOkayama University HospitalOkayamaJapan

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