The host cytokine response to Porphyromonas gingivalis is modified by gingipains

P. G. Stathopoulou, M. R. Benakanakere, J. C. Galicia, D. F. Kinane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations


Background/aims: Clinical studies indicate that primary proinflammatory cytokines, such as interleukin-1β (IL-1β) are elevated in the gingival crevice around teeth with periodontitis but the secondary cytokines and chemokines, IL-6 and IL-8, are not. The human gingival epithelial cells (HGECs) lining the gingival sulcus respond to perturbation by microbes of dental plaque by releasing a wide range of cytokines. Porphyromonas gingivalis, a putative periodontal pathogen, possesses numerous virulence factors some of which directly impact on the host response. In the present study, we sought to determine how P. gingivalis influences the inflammatory cytokine responses. Methods: HGECs were challenged with P. gingivalis and other putative periodontal pathogens, and the resultant production of IL-1β, IL-6, and IL-8 was assayed by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Culture supernatants and recombinant human cytokines were challenged with live P. gingivalis wild-type and gingipain-deficient strains and the resultant cytokine profile was assessed by ELISA and Western blot. Results: We show here that primary HGECs challenged with live P. gingivalis result in high levels of IL-1β but not the related secondary cytokines IL-6 and IL-8. We further demonstrate that cytokine response differences are the result of the action of P. gingivalis proteases, with lysine gingipain being the most effective. Conclusion: We conclude that P. gingivalis, through lysine gingipain, can subvert the protective host proinflammatory response by direct cytokine degradation. Changes in the crevicular cytokine profile have consequences in periodontal disease pathogenesis that should be considered in the development of diagnostic and therapeutic modalities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11-17
Number of pages7
JournalOral microbiology and immunology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Cytokine degradation
  • Epithelial cells
  • Gingipains
  • Porphyromonas gingivalis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Dentistry(all)
  • Microbiology (medical)


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