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Crit Rev Oral Biol Med. 1993;4(3-4):251-9.

Structural features of salivary function.

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Department of Periodontology and Oral Biology, Boston University Goldman School of Graduate Dentistry, MA 02118.


Saliva plays an important role in the maintenance of oral health by exhibiting multiple host defense functions. These include homeostatic processes, lubrication, antimicrobial activity, and the control of demineralization/remineralization of teeth. Biochemical studies of saliva and salivary secretions established that specific salivary proteins are responsible for these defense functions. Because some of these salivary proteins have been characterized extensively, including their primary structures, it has become feasible to explore their structure/function relationships. Acidic proline-rich proteins (PRPs), for example, exhibit high affinity to hydroxyapatite, inhibit crystal growth of calcium phosphate salts from solutions supersaturated with respect to hydroxyapatite, bind calcium ions, and interact with several oral bacteria on adsorption to hydroxyapatite. Statherins, histatins, and cystatins also exhibit affinities to mineral surfaces, inhibit calcium phosphate precipitation, and play a role in maintaining the integrity of teeth. Furthermore, histatins exhibit both antibacterial and antifungal activities. Approaches to identifying the functional domains of these salivary proteins include functional assays of enzymatically digested proteins and peptides, synthetic peptides and peptide analogues, and chemically modified proteins as well as biophysical studies of native proteins or peptides. Such studies have demonstrated that the fungicidal activities of histatins reside in the middle portion of the polypeptide chain, whereas the hydroxyapatite binding domains of PRPs and statherin reside in the phosphorylated amino-terminal regions. Identification of functional domains is vital in understanding the mechanisms of action and this information can be exploited in the development of therapeutic agents.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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