The serine phosphatase SerB of Porphyromonas gingivalis suppresses IL-8 production by dephosphorylation of NF-κB RelA/p65

PLoS Pathog. 2013;9(4):e1003326. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1003326. Epub 2013 Apr 18.


Porphyromonas gingivalis is a major pathogen in severe and chronic manifestations of periodontal disease, which is one of the most common infections of humans. A central feature of P. gingivalis pathogenicity is dysregulation of innate immunity at the gingival epithelial interface, including suppression of IL-8 production by epithelial cells. NF-κB is a transcriptional regulator that controls important aspects of innate immune responses, and NF-κB RelA/p65 homodimers regulate transcription of IL8. Phosphorylation of the NF-κB p65 subunit protein on the serine 536 residue affects nuclear translocation and transcription of target genes. Here we show that SerB, a haloacid dehalogenase (HAD) family serine phosphatase secreted by P. gingivalis, is produced intracellularly and can specifically dephosphorylate S536 of p65 in gingival epithelial cells. A P. gingivalis mutant lacking SerB was impaired in dephosphorylation of p65 S536, and ectopically expressed SerB bound to p65 and co-localized with p65 in the cytoplasm. Ectopic expression of SerB also resulted in dephosphorylation of p65 with reduced nuclear translocation in TNF-α-stimulated epithelial cells. In contrast, the p105/50 subunit of NF-κB was unaffected by SerB. Co-expression of a constitutively active p65 mutant (S536D) relieved inhibition of nuclear translocation. Both the activity of the IL8 promoter and production of IL-8 were diminished by SerB. Deletion and truncation mutants of SerB lacking the HAD-family enzyme motifs of SerB were unable to dephosphorylate p65, inhibit nuclear translocation or abrogate IL8 transcription. Specific dephosphorylation of NF-κB p65 S536 by SerB, and consequent inhibition of nuclear translocation, provides the molecular basis for a bacterial strategy to manipulate host inflammatory pathways and repress innate immunity at mucosal surfaces.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Active Transport, Cell Nucleus
  • Cell Line
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-8 / biosynthesis*
  • Interleukin-8 / genetics
  • Mutation
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism*
  • NF-kappa B p50 Subunit / metabolism
  • Phosphoprotein Phosphatases / genetics
  • Phosphoprotein Phosphatases / metabolism*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Porphyromonas gingivalis / enzymology
  • Porphyromonas gingivalis / metabolism*
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Transcription Factor RelA / genetics
  • Transcription Factor RelA / metabolism*
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Interleukin-8
  • NF-kappa B
  • NF-kappa B p50 Subunit
  • NFKB1 protein, human
  • RELA protein, human
  • Transcription Factor RelA
  • Phosphoprotein Phosphatases