Tooth decay could soon be a thing of the past, say scientists who claim to have deciphered the structure and functional mechanism of glucansucrase enzyme which is responsible for dental plaque sticking to teeth.
A team at University of Groningen, led by Prof Bauke Dijkstra and Prof Lubbert Dijkhuizen, has claimed the findings would stimulate identification of substances that inhibit the enzyme, the 'PNAS' journal reported.
Just add that substance to toothpaste, or even sweets, and caries will be a thing of the past, say the scientists.
In their study, the scientists analysed glucansucrase from the lactic acid bacterium Lactobacillus reuteri, which is present in the human mouth and digestive tract. The bacteria use the glucansucrase enzyme to convert sugar from food into long, sticky sugar chains. They use this glue to attach themselves to tooth enamel.
The main cause of tooth decay, bacterium Streptococcus mutans, also uses this enzyme. Once attached to tooth enamel, these bacteria ferment sugars releasing acids that dissolve the calcium in teeth. This is how caries develops.
Using protein crystallography, the researchers were able to elucidate the three dimensional (3D) structure of the enzyme. They are the first to succeed in crystallizing glucansucrase.