Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Characterization of bacteriophage communities and CRISPR profiles from dental plaque

Mayuri Naidu1, Refugio Robles-Sikisaka1, Shira R Abeles2, Tobias K Boehm3 and David T Pride12*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Pathology, University of California, San Diego, CA, USA

2 Department of Medicine, University of California, San Diego, CA, USA

3 College of Dental Medicine, Western University of Health Sciences, Pomona, CA, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Microbiology 2014, 14:175  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-14-175

Published: 30 June 2014



Dental plaque is home to a diverse and complex community of bacteria, but has generally been believed to be inhabited by relatively few viruses. We sampled the saliva and dental plaque from 4 healthy human subjects to determine whether plaque was populated by viral communities, and whether there were differences in viral communities specific to subject or sample type.


We found that the plaque was inhabited by a community of bacteriophage whose membership was mostly subject-specific. There was a significant proportion of viral homologues shared between plaque and salivary viromes within each subject, suggesting that some oral viruses were present in both sites. We also characterized Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPRs) in oral streptococci, as their profiles provide clues to the viruses that oral bacteria may be able to counteract. While there were some CRISPR spacers specific to each sample type, many more were shared across sites and were highly subject specific. Many CRISPR spacers matched viruses present in plaque, suggesting that the evolution of CRISPR loci may have been specific to plaque-derived viruses.


Our findings of subject specificity to both plaque-derived viruses and CRISPR profiles suggest that human viral ecology may be highly personalized.

Oral biofilm; Virus; Virome; Microbiome; Dental plaque; CRISPR