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J Immunol. 2007 Aug 15;179(4):2349-58.

Fimbrial proteins of porphyromonas gingivalis mediate in vivo virulence and exploit TLR2 and complement receptor 3 to persist in macrophages.

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Department of Periodontics/Oral Health and Systemic Disease, University of Louisville Health Sciences Center, Louisville, KY 40292, USA.


Porphyromonas gingivalis is an oral/systemic pathogen implicated in chronic conditions, although the mechanism(s) whereby it resists immune defenses and persists in the host is poorly understood. The virulence of this pathogen partially depends upon expression of fimbriae comprising polymerized fimbrillin (FimA) associated with quantitatively minor proteins (FimCDE). In this study, we show that isogenic mutants lacking FimCDE are dramatically less persistent and virulent in a mouse periodontitis model and express shorter fimbriae than the wild type. Strikingly, native fimbriae allowed P. gingivalis to exploit the TLR2/complement receptor 3 pathway for intracellular entry, inhibition of IL-12p70, and persistence in macrophages. This virulence mechanism also required FimCDE; indeed, mutant strains exhibited significantly reduced ability to inhibit IL-12p70, invade, and persist intracellularly, attributable to failure to interact with complement receptor 3, although not with TLR2. These results highlight a hitherto unknown mechanism of immune evasion by P. gingivalis that is surprisingly dependent upon minor constituents of its fimbriae, and support the concept that pathogens evolved to manipulate innate immunity for promoting adaptive fitness and thus their capacity to cause disease.

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