The human body is comprised of roughly 10 times more bacterial cells than human cells. In healthy people, these bacteria are typically harmless and often helpful, keeping disease-causing microbes at bay. But, when disturbances knock these bacterial populations out of balance, illnesses can arise. Periodontitis, a severe form of gum disease, is one example.
In a new study, University of Pennsylvania researchers show that bacteria responsible for many cases of periodontitis cause this imbalance, known as dysbiosis, with a sophisticated, two-prong manipulation of the human immune system.
Their findings, reported in the journal Cell Host & Microbe, lay out the mechanism, revealing that the periodontal bacterium Porphyromonas gingivalis acts on two molecular pathways to simultaneously block immune cells' killing ability while preserving the cells' ability to cause inflammation. The selective strategy protects "bystander" gum bacteria from immune system clearance, promoting dysbiosis and leading to the bone loss and inflammation that characterizes periodontitis. At the same time, breakdown products produced by inflammation provide essential nutrients that "feed" the dysbiotic microbial community. The result is a vicious cycle in which inflammation and dysbiosis reinforce one another, exacerbating periodontitis.
George Hajishengallis, a professor in the Penn School of Dental Medicine's Department of Microbiology, was the senior author on the paper, collaborating with co-senior author John Lambris, the Dr. Ralph and Sallie Weaver Professor of Research Medicine in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine in Penn's Perelman School of Medicine. Collaborators included Tomoki Maekawa and Toshiharu Abe of Penn Dental Medicine.
Work by Hajishengallis's group and collaborators had previously identified P. gingivalis as a "keystone pathogen." Drawing an analogy from the field of ecology, in which a species su
|Contact: Katherine Unger Baillie|
University of Pennsylvania