After carbohydrate intake, pH in dental plaque decreases rapidly and reaches about 4 within a few minutes. The acidification not only promotes demineralization of tooth surface but can also cause damage to bacteria in dental plaque. We, therefore, investigated the effect of acidification on the dental plaque bacteria Streptococcus sanguis and Streptococcus mutans. At pH 4.0 and 4.2, both growth and glycolytic activities in these streptococci were repressed. Prolonged acidification (for 60 min at pH 4.0) not only repressed both growth and glycolytic activities but also impaired them in S. sanguis cells with concomitant inactivation of the glycolytic enzymes, hexokinase, phosphofructokinase, glyceraldehydephosphate dehydrogenase and enolase. The impaired abilities of glycolysis and growth recovered following incubation at pH 7.0 for 80-90 min, and this was accompanied by reactivation of the glycolytic enzymes. On the other hand, these impairments were not observed in S. mutans cells exposed to prolonged acidification. These results indicate that the low pH frequently occurring in dental plaque may transiently impair streptococcal glycolysis and growth and that S. mutans is more durable to the acidification than S. sanguis.