Role of Treponema denticola in periodontal diseases

Crit Rev Oral Biol Med. 2001;12(5):399-413. doi: 10.1177/10454411010120050301.


Among periodontal anaerobic pathogens, the oral spirochetes, and especially Treponema denticola, have been associated with periodontal diseases such as early-onset periodontitis, necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis, and acute pericoronitis. Basic research as well as clinical evidence suggest that the prevalence of T denticola, together with other proteolytic gram-negative bacteria in high numbers in periodontal pockets, may play an important role in the progression of periodontal disease. The accumulation of these bacteria and their products in the pocket may render the surface lining periodontal cells highly susceptible to lysis and damage. T. denticola has been shown to adhere to fibroblasts and epithelial cells, as well as to extracellular matrix components present in periodontal tissues, and to produce several deleterious factors that may contribute to the virulence of the bacteria. These bacterial components include outer-sheath-associated peptidases, chymotrypsin-like and trypsin-like proteinases, hemolytic and hemagglutinating activities, adhesins that bind to matrix proteins and cells, and an outer-sheath protein with pore-forming properties. The effects of T. denticola whole cells and their products on a variety of host mucosal and immunological cells has been studied extensively (Fig. 1). The clinical data regarding the presence of T. denticola in periodontal health and disease, together with the basic research results involving the role of T. denticola factors and products in relation to periodontal diseases, are reviewed and discussed in this article.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adhesins, Bacterial / physiology
  • Aggressive Periodontitis / microbiology
  • Animals
  • Bacterial Adhesion
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins / physiology
  • Chymotrypsin / physiology
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Epithelial Cells / microbiology
  • Erythrocytes / microbiology
  • Extracellular Matrix / microbiology
  • Fibroblasts / microbiology
  • Gingivitis, Necrotizing Ulcerative / microbiology
  • Hemagglutinins / physiology
  • Hemolysin Proteins / physiology
  • Humans
  • Lymphocytes / microbiology
  • Neutrophils / microbiology
  • Peptide Hydrolases / physiology
  • Pericoronitis / microbiology
  • Periodontal Diseases / microbiology*
  • Periodontal Pocket / microbiology
  • Treponema / classification
  • Treponema / pathogenicity
  • Treponema / physiology*
  • Treponemal Infections / physiopathology
  • Trypsin / physiology
  • Virulence


  • Adhesins, Bacterial
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins
  • Hemagglutinins
  • Hemolysin Proteins
  • Peptide Hydrolases
  • Chymotrypsin
  • Trypsin