The relative glycogen synthetic and degradative activities of Actinomyces viscosus and Actinomyces naeslundii, freshly isolated from root surface caries and noncaries sites, were compared. The glycogen synthetic activity was measured by incubating glucose-(or sucrose-)grown resting cells with 100 mM glucose (or sucrose) and U-[14C]-glucose (or U-[14C]-sucrose) on a pH-stat maintained at 5.0, 6.0, and 7.0 for 1 h under anaerobic conditions. For the glycogen degradation assays, after the 1-hour incubation period, the cells were reincubated under similar conditions, but in the absence of external carbon sources. Carbohydrate utilization and total acid formation were also monitored. Both the glucose- and sucrose-grown cells of A. viscosus and A. naeslundii strains originating from root surface caries lesions synthesized approximately twice as much glycogen as the strains of noncaries origin. Although there were significant differences in the rates of glycogen synthesis, the rates of glycogen degradation were essentially the same for the Actinomyces strains from both caries and noncaries sites. However, the time required for glycogen degradation by the strains from caries sites was much longer. This study suggests that the abilities of A. viscosus and A. naeslundii originating from root surface caries lesions to synthesize large amounts of glycogen and to degrade this stored polymer slowly under conditions of starvation, particularly in an acidic environment, may be one of the factors contributing to the cariogenic potential of these organisms in root surface caries.

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