Oral biofilms comprise complex multispecies consortia aided by specific inter- and intraspecies interactions occurring among commensals and pathogenic bacterial species. Oral biofilms are primary initiating factors of periodontal disease, although complex multifactorial biological influences, including host cell responses, contribute to the individual outcome of the disease. To provide a system to study initial stages of interaction between oral biofilms and the host cells that contribute to the disease process, we developed a novel in vitro model system to grow biofilms on rigid gas-permeable contact lenses (RGPLs), which enable oxygen to permeate through the lens material. Bacterial species belonging to early- and late-colonizing groups were successfully established as single- or three-species biofilms, with each group comprising Streptococcus gordonii, Streptococcus oralis, and Streptococcus sanguinis; S. gordonii, Actinomyces naeslundii, and Fusobacterium nucleatum; or S. gordonii, F. nucleatum, and Porphyromonas gingivalis. Quantification of biofilm numbers by quantitative PCR (qPCR) revealed substantial differences in the magnitude of bacterial numbers in single-species and multispecies biofilms. We evaluated cell-permeable conventional nucleic acid stains acridine orange, hexidium iodide, and Hoechst 33258 and novel SYTO red, blue, and green fluorochromes for their effect on bacterial viability and fluorescence yield to allow visualization of the aggregates of individual bacterial species by confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM). Substantial differences in the quantity and distribution of the species in the multispecies biofilms were identified. The specific features of these biofilms may help us better understand the role of various bacteria in local challenge of oral tissues.

Document Type


Publication Date


Notes/Citation Information

Published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, v. 77, no. 10, p. 3413–3421.

Copyright © 2011, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.

The copyright holders have granted the permission for posting the article here.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Funding Information

This work was supported by NIH/NIDCR grant R21DE018177.