Background: Porphyromonas gingivalis is the foremost oral pathogen of adult periodontitis in humans. However, the mechanisms of bacterial invasion and the resultant destruction of the gingival tissue remain largely undefined.
Results: We report host-P. gingivalis interactions in primary human gingival fibroblast (HGF) cells. Quantitative immunostaining revealed the need for a high multiplicity of infection for optimal infection. Early in infection (2-12 h), P. gingivalis activated the proinflammatory transcription factor NF-kappa B, partly via the PI3 kinase/AKT pathway. This was accompanied by the induction of cellular anti-apoptotic genes, including Bfl-1, Boo, Bcl-XL, Bcl2, Mcl-1, Bcl-w and Survivin. Late in infection (24-36 h) the anti-apoptotic genes largely shut down and the pro-apoptotic genes, including Nip3, Hrk, Bak, Bik, Bok, Bax, Bad, Bim and Moap-1, were activated. Apoptosis was characterized by nuclear DNA degradation and activation of caspases-3, -6, -7 and -9 via the intrinsic mitochondrial pathway. Use of inhibitors revealed an anti-apoptotic function of NF-kappa B and PI3 kinase in P. gingivalis-infected HGF cells. Use of a triple protease mutant P. gingivalis lacking three major gingipains (rgpA rgpB kgp) suggested a role of some or all these proteases in myriad aspects of bacteria-gingival interaction.
Conclusion: The pathology of the gingival fibroblast in P. gingivalis infection is affected by a temporal shift from cellular survival response to apoptosis, regulated by a number of anti- and pro-apoptotic molecules. The gingipain group of proteases affects bacteria-host interactions and may directly promote apoptosis by intracellular proteolytic activation of caspase-3.