Current Oral Health Reports

, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 14–21 | Cite as

Beyond Cell Division: the Ecological Roles of Autolysins in Oral Biofilm Communities

  • Nyssa CullinEmail author
  • Justin Merritt
  • Jens KrethEmail author
Microbiology (M Klein, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Microbiology


Purpose of Review

The goal of this review is to address the complicated nature of autolysins found among oral bacteria and the roles they play within the oral biofilm. The various functions of autolysins are discussed, as well as the regulation of autolysins and overall contribution to biofilms and the oral environment.

Recent Findings

With their many functions, bacterial autolysins can be understood as contributing to both cell physiology and population dynamics within the oral environment. Cell division, peptidoglycan turnover/remodeling, fratricide, and programmed cell death are all influenced, if not controlled, by autolysins. The release of nutrients and DNA as functional byproducts of lysins can alter the biofilm by affecting the growth and overall genetic makeup of the diverse bacteria.


Autolysins and their various functions contribute to biofilm formation, horizontal gene transfer, and the overall health of the oral cavity.


Oral bacteria Autolysin Peptidoglycan hydrolase Biofilms 



This work was supported by an NIH-NIDCR grant DE021726 to J. K. and NIH-NIDCR grants DE018893 and DE022083 to J. M.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Nyssa Cullin, Justin Merritt, and Jens Kreth declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Microbiology and ImmunologyUniversity of Oklahoma Health Sciences CenterOklahoma CityUSA
  2. 2.Department of Restorative DentistryOregon Health and Science UniversityPortlandUSA

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