Comprehensive Dentistry & Biomaterials

Dental Hygiene


Oral & Craniofacial Biology

Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery


Pediatric Dentistry



Department of Oral and Craniofacial Biology
Zezhang (Tom) Wen, Ph.D., 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:  504-941-8218

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 on the 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 microbiological, molecular and computational techniques and various in vitro and in vivo models.

Sponsored by NIH/NIDCR, one of Dr. Wenís 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 the development and ultimately, the pathogenicity of the plaque biofilms. Dental plaque is a highly complex, dynamic microbial community consisting of more than 700 hundred different species. This study uses multiple-species consortium and systems biology approach to investigate the interactions between S. mutans and other major species in the supragingival plaque, including Lactobacillus spp., and their effects on S. mutansí colonization, persistence and competitiveness, the community composition and stability, and ultimately, its pathogenicity. 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 institutions. 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, Research Methods, and Dental Grant Rounds. In addition, Dr. Wen's laboratories offer a variety of training opportunities for LSUHSC undergraduate and graduate students, DDS residents, and MD/PhD postdoctoral fellows.

Selected Publications:
Katherine Rainey, Suzanne Michalek, Z. T. Wen*, and Hui Wu. 2019. Glycosyltransferase mediated biofilm matrix dynamics and virulence of Streptococcus mutans". Appl Environ Microbiol. 2019 Feb 20;85(5). pii:  e02247-18. doi: 10.1128/AEM.02247-18. Print 2019 Mar 1. PMID:30578260; Abranches J., L. Zeng, J. K. Kajfasz, S. R. Palmer, B. Chakraborty, Z. T. Wen, V. P. Richards, L. J. Brady, J. A. Lemos. 2018. Biology of Oral Streptococci. Microbiol Spectr. 2018 Oct;6(5). doi:  10.1128/microbiolspec.GPP3-0042-2018. PMID:3033875; Lemos JA, Palmer SR, Zeng L, Wen ZT, Kajfasz JK, Freires IA, Abranches J, Brady LJ.

Wen, Z. T.*, K. Scott-Anne, S. Liao, A. De, M. Luo, C. Kovacs, B. S. Narvaez, R. Faustoferri, Q. Yu, C. M. Taylor, R. G. Quivey. 2018. Deficiency of BrpA in Streptococcus mutans Reduces Virulence in Rat Caries Model. Mol. Oral Microbiol. 2018 Jun 11. doi: 10.1111/omi.12230. [Epub ahead of print] PMID:  29888871.

Lee, J., J. A. Townsend*, T. Thompson, A. De, T. Garitty, Q. Yu, B. Peters, and Z. T. Wen*. 2017. Analysis of the Cariogenic Potential of Various Almond Milk Beverages Using Streptococcus mutans Biofilm Model In Vitro. Caries Research 2018;52(1-2):51-57. doi: 10.1159/000479936. Epub 2017 Dec 15. PMID:29241218.

Wen, Z. T., S. Liao, J. P. Bitoun, A. De, A. N. Jorgensen, S. Feng, X. Xu, P. S. G Chain, P. W. Caufield, H. Koo, Y. Li. 2017. Streptococcus mutans displays altered stress responses while enhancing biofilm formation by Lactobacillus casei in mixed-species consortium. Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2017 Dec 20;7:524. doi:  10.3389/fcimb.2017.00524. eCollection 2017. (PMID: 29326887).

De, A., S. Liao, J. P. Bitoun, R. Roth, W. L. Beatty, H. Wu, and Z. T. Wen*. 2017. Deficiency of RgpG causes major defects in cell division and biofilm formation, and deficiency of LCP proteins leads to accumulation of cell wall antigens in culture medium by Streptococcus mutans. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 2017 Jul 7. pii: AEM.00928-17. doi: 10.1128/AEM.00928-17. (PMID: 28687645).

Besingi, R. N., I. B. Wenderska, D. B. Senadheeram, D. G. Cvitkovitch, J. R. Long, Z. T. Wen, L. J. 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. (PMID:28141493).

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

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