We previously reported evidence that patients with periodontitis have serum antibodies to oral Gram positive bacteria that are cross-reactive with epithelial antigens, including CD24. High level expression of CD24 was confined to the reactive periodontal epithelium and inflamed gingival attachment. As a model for the reactive epithelium of chronic periodontitis, H413 epithelial cells derived from a human oral squamous cell carcinoma were cloned and lines expressing high levels of CD24 were selected. RNA interference protocols were designed to determine if CD24 could modulate intercellular interactions and regulate the biology of these epithelial cells. Knock-down of CD24 protein was demonstrated by Western blot and flow cytometry. The level of mRNA for CD24 was reduced 90% by RNAi treatment as assayed by real-time, reverse transcriptase (RT)-PCR. Gene products known to be important in epithelial biology, including E-cadherin and TGF-beta3 that were demonstrated to undergo altered expression patterns in the periodontal lesion, were investigated. Down-regulation of CD24 mRNA was associated with reduced e-cadherin expression and up-regulated expression of snail, twist, and tgf-beta3. The cells were treated with monoclonal antibodies to CD24 to mimic the action of auto-reactive antibodies to CD24 detected in affected patients. Relative to isotype control antibody, stimulation by anti-CD24 antibodies induced up-regulated expression of e-cadherin and down-regulation of tgf-beta3 as assessed by real-time RT-PCR. No consistent changes for expression of beta-catenin, connexins, integrins, icam-1, tgf-beta1 or tgf-beta2 were observed. CD24 could play an important role in modulating expression of genes that regulate epithelial differentiation in periodontal disease.