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UF Researchers Map Bacterial Proteins That Cause Tooth Loss

The human mouth teems with millions of enamel-eroding, gum-inflaming microbes.

One of these, Porphyromonas gingivalis, is a bacterial homesteader that stakes a claim deep within the spaces between teeth and gums. It’s also the leading cause of tooth loss ?secreting proteins that destroy the soft tissues and bone that support teeth to cause periodontal disease.

Now scientists have identified the thousands of proteins the bacterium produces, shedding light on how it interacts with healthy cells in order to thrive, according to dental researchers from the University of Florida and the University of Washington. They describe their findings in the current issue of the journal Proteomics.

“Determining which proteins are expressed in greater levels in the mouth has allowed us to gain clues as to how P. gingivalis might be causing disease, and what we might be able to do with drugs or vaccines to prevent it,?said Richard Lamont, Ph.D., a professor of oral biology at UF’s College of Dentistry and study investigator.

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates 80 percent of adult Americans have some form of periodontal disease, their symptoms ranging from mild gum irritation to complete tooth loss.

People with periodontal disease also are at increased risk of stroke and heart attack, and the disease makes it difficult to control blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. If that’s not bad enough, pregnant women with periodontal disease are seven times more likely to deliver low-birth-weight, preterm babies. Proteins are important to study because they are the foundation of the cellular structure of every living organism, Lamont said. They carry on the day-to-day biology of life, going about their business as enzymes and antibodies. They can also cause disease.

“The genes themselves are only important in that they encode the proteins,?Lamont said. “It’s the proteins that are most responsible for disease,
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Source:University Of Florida Health Science Center


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