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Infect Immun. 2001 Sep;69(9):5650-60.

Hydrolysis of interleukin-12 by Porphyromonas gingivalis major cysteine proteinases may affect local gamma interferon accumulation and the Th1 or Th2 T-cell phenotype in periodontitis.

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  • 1Institute of Dental Research, University of New South Wales, Randwick, New South Wales 2052, Australia.


Porphyromonas gingivalis cysteine proteinases (gingipains) have been associated with virulence in destructive periodontitis, a disease process variously considered to represent an unregulated stimulation of either T helper type 1 (Th1)- or Th2-type cells. Critical in maintaining Th1 activity is the response of T lymphocytes to environmental interleukin 12 (IL-12) in the form of up-regulation of gamma interferon (IFN-gamma) production. Here we demonstrate that in the presence or absence of serum, gingipains were able to hydrolyze IL-12 and reduce the IL-12-induced IFN-gamma production from CD4+ T cells. However, the induction of IL-12 receptors on T cells by gingipains did not correlate with the enhancement of IFN-gamma production. The gingipains cleaved IL-12 within the COOH-terminal region of the p40 and p35 subunit chains, which leads to IL-12 inactivity, whereas IL-2 in these assays was not affected. Inactivation of IL-12 by the gingipains could disrupt the cytokine balance or favor Th2 activities in the progression of periodontitis.

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