Hog gastric mucin has been used as a model glycoprotein to determine the role of particular glycosidases produced by different oral bacteria in the development of stable, diverse microbial communities. The patterns of glycosidase and protease activity were determined in pure cultures of ten representative species of oral bacteria using synthetic substrates. A five member mixed culture was established in a chemostat, comprising species with minimal glycosidase and protease activity, in which hog gastric mucin was the major carbon and energy source. Introduction of additional species with novel enzyme activities (e.g. sialidase, α-fucosidase and endopeptidase) led to their establishment within the community to make communities with seven, eight, nine and ten members and resulted in an increase in the total viable counts of the microbial consortium. This increase in viable count was made up of the numbers of the newly added species as well as from a rise in the numbers of the existing community members. This result suggested that glycoprotein catabolism involved the synergistic and concerted action of several species with overlapping patterns of enzyme activity. Such metabolic cooperation results in the liberation of additional nutrients, and this may help to maintain the characteristic diversity of resident microbial communities found in many natural habitats.


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