Strong phospholipase A (PLA) and phospholipase C (PLC) activities as potential virulence factors are the outstanding characteristics of eight strains of small oral spirochaetes isolated from deep periodontal lesions. By qualitative dot-blot DNA-DNA hybridization and 16S rDNA sequence comparison, these spirochaetes form a distinct phylogenetic group, with as its closest cultivable relative. Growth of these treponemes, cells of which contain two endoflagella, one at each pole, was autoinhibited by the PLA-mediated production of lysolecithin unless medium OMIZ-Pat was prepared without lecithin. -Acetylglucosamine was essential and -ribose was stimulatory for growth. All isolates were growth-inhibited when 1% foetal calf serum was added to the medium. Growth on agar plates supplemented with human erythrocytes produced haemolysis. In addition to PLA and PLC, the new isolates displayed strong activities of alkaline and acid phosphatases, β-galactosidase, β-glucuronidase, -acetyl-β-glucosaminidase and sialidase, intermediate activities of C4- and C8-esterases, naphthol phosphohydrolase and α-fucosidase and a distinctive 30 kDa antigen detectable on Western blots. This phenotypically and genotypically homogeneous group is proposed as a novel species, sp. nov., with isolate OMZ 684 designated as the type strain. A molecular epidemiological analysis using a -specific probe showed this organism to be associated with affected sites when compared with unaffected sites of periodontitis patients. This association was more pronounced in patients with rapidly progressive periodontitis than in those with adult periodontitis.


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