Comprehensive Dentistry & Biomaterials

Department of Oral and Craniofacial Biology
Zezhang (Tom) Wen, Ph.D., Associate Professor

Associate Professor
Comprehensive Dentistry and Biomaterials; Oral and Craniofacial Biology;
Microbiology, Immunology and Parasitology

Office: Jeansonne Clinic Building
Room #6305
Email: zwen@lsuhsc.edu
Phone: 504-941-8465 (office) 
504-941-8297 (lab)
Fax: 504-941-8319

Ph.D., Molecular Microbiology, May 1998
University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Dr. Wen received his PhD in Molecular Microbiology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, NE in May 1998. He worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Rochester Center for Oral Biology, Rochester, New York from 1998 to 2001 and as a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Oral Biology at the University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida from 2001 to 2008.  Dr. Wen joined the faculty at LSU Health Sciences Center in May 26, 2008 as an Assistant Professor with a primary appointment in the Department of Oral and Craniofacial Biology.


Research Interests:

The primary interest of Dr. Wen’s research is in the areas of microbial genetics and ecology of oral biofilms with a focus on molecular regulation of Streptococcus mutans biofilm formation and a long-term goal in identification of novel strategies against cariogenic biofilms and human dental caries. It is being carried out using a combination of modern molecular, biochemical and computational techniques and various in vitro and in vivo models.


Sponsored by NIH/NIDCR, one of Dr. Wen’s major projects is on “BrpA in virulence modulation of Streptococcus mutans”. As a major etiological agent of human dental caries, S. mutans lives primarily on the tooth surface in tenacious biofilms. The abilities to colonize and to persist on the tooth surface are essential for the bacterium to cause disease. Identified using functional genomics approach, BrpA, for biofilm regulatory protein A, is shown to play a major role in regulation of acid- and oxidative stress tolerance response and biofilm formation, traits critical to pathogenicity of S. mutans. Predicted as a surface-associated protein, BrpA also possesses compositional and structural features that appear to be unique to S. mutans in the oral flora. This study is designed to explore the structure-function relationships of BrpA and the potential of BrpA in strategy against S. mutans.  


Another major aspect of Dr. Wen’s research focuses on intra- and inter-species communication and its impact on S. mutans establishment, persistence and competitiveness during growth in mixed-species consortium. Dental plaque is a highly complex, dynamic microbial community consisting of more than 700 hundred different species. It is well documented that microbial cells of the same and between different species in a community interact. It is generally believed that intra- and inter-species communication plays a central role in the development and ultimately, the pathogenicity of the plaque. This study uses multiple-species consortium and systems biology approach to investigate the interactions between S. mutans and Lactobacillus spp., another group of highly acidogenic and aciduric bacteria frequently isolated from carious sites, especially in advanced caries, concerning the impact of community composition and environmental conditions on their abilities to colonize, persist and accumulate on the tooth surface and to cause carious lesions. In this highly collaborative effort, Dr. Wen works closely with a multi-disciplinary team of experts in transcriptomics, metabolomics, computational biology, and animal modeling from several different institutes. 


Dr. Wen is also working together with the Xu group in Biomaterials Sciences to develop novel antibacterial dental materials and materials for oral and facial tissues repair. Currently, he is serving as a co-investigator on Dr. Xu’s R01 grant “High Performance Antimicrobial Fluoride Releasing Dental Materials” sponsored by NIH/NIDCR.


Research Interest--Keywords: Streptococcus mutans, Lactobacillus spp., eDNA, biofilms, ecology of oral biofilms, bacterial cell-cell communication, bacterial genetics, virulence regulation, and human dental caries.


Teaching Activities:

Advanced Bacteriology, Oral Microbiology and Immunology, DH Oral Microbiology and Immunology, Research Methods, and Dental Grant Rounds.


Selected Publications:

Besingi, RN, IB Wenderska, DB Senadheeram DG Cvitkovitch, JR Long, ZT Wen, LJ Brady. 2017. Functional Amyloids in Streptococcus mutans, their use as Targets of Biofilm Inhibition and Initial Characterization of SMU_63c. Microbiology. 2017 Apr;163(4):488-501. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.000443. Epub 2017 Apr 26. PMID:28141493.

Wen, Z. T*., J. P. Bitoun, and S. Liao. 2015. PBP1a-deficiency causes major defects in cell division, growth and biofilm formation by Streptococcus mutans. PLoS ONE. 2015; 10(4): e0124319. (PMID:25880908;PMCID: PMC4399832).

Liao, S., J. P. Bitoun, AH Nguyen, D. Bozner, X. Yao, Z. T. Wen*. 2014. Deficiency of PdxR in Streptococcus mutans affects vitamin B6 metabolism, acid tolerance response and biofilm formation. Mol Oral Microbiol. 30(4):255-68. doi: 10.1111/omi.12090. (PMID: 25421565) (PMCID:PMC4465058).

Zhang, J., R. Wu, Y. Fan, S. Liao, Y. Wang, Z. T. Wen, and X. Xu*. 2014. Antibacterial dental composites with chlorhexidine and mesoporous silica. J Dent Res.  93(12):1283-9. (PMID: 25319365; PMCID: PMC4237641).

Liao, S., M. I. Klein, K. P. Heim, Y. Fan, J. P. Bitoun, S. J. Ahn, R. A. Burne, H. Koo, L. J. Brady, Z. T. Wen*. 2014. Streptococcus mutans eDNA is up-regulated during growth in biofilms, actively released via membrane vesicles, and influenced by components of the protein secretion machinery. J Bacteriol. 196(13):2355-2366  (PMID:24748612) (PMCID: PMC4054167).

Baker, J. L., A. D. Derr, K. Karuppaiah, M. E. Macgilvray, J. K. Kajfasz, R. C. Faustoferri, I. Rivera-Ramos, J. P. Bitoun, J. A. Lemos, Z. T. Wen, R. G. Quivey, Jr*. 2014. Streptococcus mutans NADH oxidase lies at the intersection of overlapping regulons controlled by oxygen and NAD+ levels. J Bacteriol. 196(12):2166-2177 (PMID:24682329) (PMCID: PMC4054193).

Bitoun, J. P., S. Liao, G.G. Xie, W. L. Beatty, and Z. T. Wen*. 2014. Deficiency of BrpB, a YjeE Homologue, Causes Major Defects in Cell Division, Stress Responses, and Biofilm Formation by Streptococcus mutans. Microbiology, 160(1):67-78.

Bitoun, J. P., Liao, S., B. A. McKey, X. Yao, Y. Fan, J. Abranches, W. L. Beatty, and Z. T. Wen* 2013 Psr is involved in regulation of glucan production and double deficiency of BrpA and Psr is lethal in Streptococcus mutans. Microbiol. 159(3): 492-505.

Fan, Y. Z.T. Wen, S. Liao, J.L. Hagan, T. Lallier, Z. Sun, and X. Xu. 2012. Novel amelogenin-releasing hydrogel for remineralization of enamel artificial caries. J. Bioactive Compatible Polymers. 27(6):585-603

Bitoun, J. P., S. Liao, X. Yao, G. G. Xie, and Z. T. Wen.  2012. The redox-sensing regulator Rex modulates central carbon metabolism, stress tolerance response and biofilm formation by Streptococcus mutans. PLoS ONE. 7(9) e44766 (10.1371/journal.pone.0044766).

Bitoun, J. P., S. Liao, X. Yao, S.-J. Ahn, R. Isoda, L. J. Brady, R. A. Burne, J. Abranches, and Z. T. Wen. 2012.  BrpA is involved in regulation of cell envelope stress responses in Streptococcus mutans. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 78(8):2914-22.

Wen, Z. T., D. Yates, S. J. Ahn, and R. A. Burne.  2010.  Biofilm formation and virulence expression by Streptococcus mutans are altered when grown in dual-species model.  BMC Microbiol. 10:111.


Additional Info:

Publication at Pubmed (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=wen+zt)

LSU Health Sciences Center
LSUHSC Foundation
Contact Webmaster

Disclaimer, Privacy Policy
© Copyright 2013.  All rights reserved.
Updated October 2013