Streptococcus mutans transports glucose via the phosphoenolpyruvate (PEP)-dependent sugar phosphotransferase system (PTS). Earlier studies indicated that an alternate glucose transport system functions in this organism under conditions of high growth rates, low pH, or excess glucose. To identify this system, S. mutans BM71 was transformed with integration vector pDC-5 to generate a mutant, DC10, defective in the general PTS protein enzyme I (EI). This mutant expressed a defective EI that had been truncated by approximately 150 amino acids at the carboxyl terminus as revealed by Western blot (immunoblot) analysis with anti-EI antibody and Southern hybridizations with a fragment of the wild-type EI gene as a probe. Phosphotransfer assays utilizing 32P-PEP indicated that DC10 was incapable of phosphorylating HPr and EIIAMan, indicating a nonfunctional PTS. This was confirmed by the fact that DC10 was able to ferment glucose but not a variety of other PTS substrates and phosphorylated glucose with ATP and not PEP. Kinetic assays indicated that the non-PTS system exhibited an apparent Ks of 125 microM for glucose and a Vmax of 0.87 nmol mg (dry weight) of cells-1 min-1. Sugar competition experiments with DC10 indicated that the non-PTS transport system had high specificity for glucose since glucose transport was not significantly by a 100-fold molar excess of several competing sugar substrates, including 2-deoxyglucose and alpha-methylglucoside. These results demonstrate that S. mutans possesses a glucose transport system that can function independently of the PEP PTS.