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Cell Microbiol. 2009 Nov;11(11):1587-99. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-5822.2009.01349.x. Epub 2009 Jun 13.

Human Toll-like receptor 4 responses to P. gingivalis are regulated by lipid A 1- and 4'-phosphatase activities.

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Department of Periodontics, School of Dentistry, University of Washington, 1959 NE Pacific St., Seattle, WA 98195-7444, USA.


Signal transduction following binding of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) to Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) is an essential aspect of host innate immune responses to infection by Gram-negative pathogens. Here, we describe a novel molecular mechanism used by a prevalent human bacterial pathogen to evade and subvert the human innate immune system. We show that the oral pathogen, Porphyromonas gingivalis, uses endogenous lipid A 1- and 4'-phosphatase activities to modify its LPS, creating immunologically silent, non-phosphorylated lipid A. This unique lipid A provides a highly effective mechanism employed by this bacterium to evade TLR4 sensing and to resist killing by cationic antimicrobial peptides. In addition, lipid A 1-phosphatase activity is suppressed by haemin, an important nutrient in the oral cavity. Specifically, P. gingivalis grown in the presence of high haemin produces lipid A that acts as a potent TLR4 antagonist. These results suggest that haemin-dependent regulation of lipid A 1-dephosphorylation can shift P. gingivalis lipid A activity from TLR4 evasive to TLR4 suppressive, potentially altering critical interactions between this bacterium, the local microbial community and the host innate immune system.

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