Butyric acid induces apoptosis in both human monocytes and lymphocytes equivalently

J Oral Sci. 2012 Mar;54(1):7-14. doi: 10.2334/josnusd.54.7.


Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) are metabolites from anaerobic periodontopathic bacteria that induce apoptosis in immune cells such as lymphocytes, monocytes and macrophages. However, it remains unclear if SCFAs from pathogens induce apoptosis in monocytes/macrophages similarly with lymphocytes. This study investigated whether SCFAs-induced apoptosis is equal among the immunoregulatory cells. Cell apoptosis of the employed human cells was evaluated after treatment with culture supernatants from various periodontopathic bacteria or sodium butyrate. Apoptosis and viability were determined by detection of DNA fragmentation and using an MTS assay kit, respectively. Porphyromonas gingivalis and Fusobacterium nucleatum culture filtrates strongly induced apoptosis whereas Prevotella nigrescens and Prevotella intermedia culture filtrates failed to induce apoptosis in the THP-1 and U937 human monocyte and macrophage cell lines. Healthy gingival fibroblasts and oral epithelial cells were resistant to all the culture filtrates. Gas-liquid chromatography detected butyric acid in P. gingivalis (21.0-34.0 mM) and F. nucleatum (36.0 mM) in culture filtrates, whereas, only trace levels were seen in P. nigrescens and P. intermedia. These results suggest that butyric acid produced by periodontopathic bacteria severely damages immunoregulatory cells in a consistent manner and, likewise, could be involved in mediating periodontal chronic inflammation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans / metabolism
  • Apoptosis*
  • Butyric Acid / pharmacology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Culture Media, Conditioned / pharmacology*
  • Fusobacterium nucleatum / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lymphocytes / drug effects*
  • Monocytes / drug effects*
  • Porphyromonas gingivalis / metabolism


  • Culture Media, Conditioned
  • Butyric Acid