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Front Oral Biol. 2012;15:84-98. doi: 10.1159/000329673. Epub 2011 Nov 11.

Antimicrobial peptides in periodontal innate defense.

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Department of Diagnostic and Biological Sciences, University of Minnesota School of Dentistry, Minneapolis, MN, USA.


The development of oral biofilms and the host response to biofilm bacteria and their toxins are important factors in the development of periodontal disease. An early component of the host response is the secretion of antimicrobial proteins and peptides (AMPs) by salivary glands, oral epithelial cells and neutrophils. Over 45 AMPs have been identified in the oral cavity. All are found in saliva and several are also present in gingival crevicular fluid. Of these, 13 are up regulated in periodontal disease while 11 are downregulated. However, the concentrations of most AMPs found in oral fluids are below the effective in vitro concentrations, suggesting that local concentrations must be higher for effect or that additional biological functions are important in the oral cavity. Thus, in addition to direct antibacterial activity (e.g. bactericidal activity, bacterial agglutination), AMPs may affect the course of periodontal disease by inactivating bacterial or host proteases (e.g. secretory leukoprotease inhibitor) or bind bacterial toxins, including lipopolysaccharides (e.g. LL-37). Several AMPs (e.g. defensins) also act as immune system alarmins, i.e. endogenous mediators that recruit and activate antigen-presenting cells to enhance innate and adaptive immune responses. The differential regulation of AMP expression in periodontal disease suggests that AMP panels, including up- and downregulated proteins, can be used in oral fluid diagnosis of periodontal disease and to monitor treatment outcome.

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