An effector strain has been constructed for use in the replacement therapy of dental caries. Recombinant DNA methods were used to make the Streptococcus mutans supercolonizing strain, JH1140, lactate dehydrogenase deficient by deleting virtually all of the ldh open reading frame (ORF). To compensate for the resulting metabolic imbalance, a supplemental alcohol dehydrogenase activity was introduced by substituting the adhB ORF from Zymomonas mobilis in place of the deleted ldh ORF. The resulting clone, BCS3- L1, was found to produce no detectable lactic acid during growth on a variety of carbon sources, and it produced significantly less total acid due to its increased production of ethanol and acetoin. BCS3-L1 was significantly less cariogenic than JH1140 in both gnotobiotic- and conventional-rodent models. It colonized the teeth of conventional rats as well as JH1140 in both aggressive-displacement and preemptive-colonization models. No gross or microscopic abnormalities of major organs were associated with oral colonization of rats with BCS3-L1 for 6 months. Acid-producing revertants of BCS3-L1 were not observed in samples taken from infected animals (reversion frequency, <10-3) or by screening cultures grown in vitro, where no revertants were observed among 105 colonies examined on pH indicator medium. The reduced pathogenic potential of BCS3-L1, its strong colonization potential, and its genetic stability suggest that this strain is well suited to serve as an effector strain in the replacement therapy of dental caries in humans.