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Infect Immun. 2008 Jun;76(6):2428-38. doi: 10.1128/IAI.01128-07. Epub 2008 Apr 7.

Highly conserved surface proteins of oral spirochetes as adhesins and potent inducers of proinflammatory and osteoclastogenic factors.

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  • 1Department of Oral Microbiology and Immunology, School of Dentistry, Seoul National University, 28 Yongon-Dong, Chongno-Gu, Seoul 110-749, Republic of South Korea.


Oral spirochetes include enormously heterogeneous Treponema species, and some have been implicated in the etiology of periodontitis. In this study, we characterized highly conserved surface proteins in four representative oral spirochetes (Treponema denticola, T. lecithinolyticum, T. maltophilum, and T. socranskii subsp. socranskii) that are homologs of T. pallidum Tp92, with opsonophagocytic potential and protective capacity against syphilis. Tp92 homologs of oral spirochetes had predicted signal peptides (20 to 31 amino acids) and molecular masses of 88 to 92 kDa for mature proteins. They showed amino acid sequence identities of 37.9 to 49.3% and similarities of 54.5 to 66.9% to Tp92. The sequence identities and similarities of Tp92 homologs of oral treponemes to one another were 41.6 to 71.6% and 59.9 to 85.6%, respectively. The tp92 gene homologs were successfully expressed in Escherichia coli, and the recombinant proteins were capable of binding to KB cells, an epithelial cell line, and inhibited the binding of the whole bacteria to the cells. Antiserum (the immunoglobulin G fraction) raised against a recombinant form of the T. denticola Tp92 homolog cross-reacted with homologs from three other species of treponemes. The Tp92 homologs stimulated various factors involved in inflammation and osteoclastogenesis, like interleukin-1beta (IL-1beta), tumor necrosis factor alpha, IL-6, prostaglandin E(2), and matrix metalloproteinase 9, in host cells like monocytes and fibroblasts. Our results demonstrate that Tp92 homologs of oral spirochetes are highly conserved and may play an important role in cell attachment, inflammation, and tissue destruction. The coexistence of various Treponema species in a single periodontal pocket and, therefore, the accumulation of multiple Tp92 homologs may amplify the pathological effect in periodontitis.

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