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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Apr 20;101(16):6176-81. Epub 2004 Apr 5.

Methanogenic Archaea and human periodontal disease.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.


Archaea have been isolated from the human colon, vagina, and oral cavity, but have not been established as causes of human disease. In this study, we reveal a relationship between the severity of periodontal disease and the relative abundance of archaeal small subunit ribosomal RNA genes (SSU rDNA) in the subgingival crevice by using quantitative PCR. Furthermore, the relative abundance of archaeal small subunit rDNA decreased at treated sites in association with clinical improvement. Archaea were harbored by 36% of periodontitis patients and were restricted to subgingival sites with periodontal disease. The presence of archaeal cells at these sites was confirmed by fluorescent in situ hybridization. The archaeal community at diseased sites was dominated by a Methanobrevibacter oralis-like phylotype and a distinct Methanobrevibacter subpopulation related to archaea that inhabit the gut of numerous animals. We hypothesize that methanogens participate in syntrophic relationships in the subgingival crevice that promote colonization by secondary fermenters during periodontitis. Because they are potential alternative syntrophic partners, our finding of larger Treponema populations sites without archaea provides further support for this hypothesis.

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