The aim of this study was to examine the influence of glucosyltransferase-gene-negative (gtf-) Streptococcus mutans strains unable to synthesize water-insoluble or soluble glucan on the structure and macromolecular diffusion properties of in vitro grown mixed oral biofilms. Biofilms modeling supragingival plaque consisted of Actinomyces naeslundii OMZ 745, Candida albicans OMZ 110, Fusobacterium nucleatum KP-F2, Streptococcus oralis SK 248, Veillonella dispar ATCC 17748T and one of the S. mutans strains UA159, OMZ 966, OMZ 937 or OMZ 977. Biofilms were grown anaerobically on sintered hydroxyapatite disks for 64.5 h at 37 degrees C. To perform confocal laser scanning microscopy analyses, microorganisms were stained with Syto 13 and extracellular polysaccharides (EPS) with Calcofluor. Macromolecular diffusion properties were measured following timed biofilm exposure to Texas-Red-labeled 70-kDa dextran. Results showed that replacing wild-type S. mutans by a gtfC- mutant led to an increase in the volume fraction occupied by cells from 29 to 48% and a decrease of the EPS volume fraction from 51 to 33%. No such changes were observed when the S. mutans wild-type strain was replaced by a gtfB- or gtfD- mutant. The diffusion coefficient of 70-kDa dextran in biofilms containing the gtfC- S. mutans was 16-fold higher than in biofilms with the wild-type strain indicating a strong macromolecular sieving effect of GTF C-generated glucans. Our data demonstrate the influence of EPS on the structure and macromolecular diffusion properties of an oral biofilm model and uncover our still limited knowledge of the function of EPS in biofilms and plaque.