TLR4 Expression by Liver Resident Cells Mediates the Development of Glucose Intolerance and Insulin Resistance in Experimental Periodontitis

PLoS One. 2015 Aug 28;10(8):e0136502. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0136502. eCollection 2015.


Background: Results from epidemiological studies indicate a close association between periodontitis and type 2 diabetes mellitus. However, the mechanism linking periodontitis to glucose intolerance (GI) and insulin resistance (IR) is unknown. We therefore tested the hypothesis that periodontitis induces the development of GI/IR through a liver Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) dependent mechanism.

Methods: TLR4 chimeric mice were developed by bone marrow transplantation using green fluorescent protein expressing TLR4WT mouse (GFPWT) as donor and TLR4 WT or TLR4-/- as recipient mice (GFPWT:WT and GFPWT:KO chimeras respectively). These chimeras were subjected to experimental chronic periodontitis induced by repeated applications of LPS to the gingival sulci for 18 weeks. The levels of GI/IR were monitored and plasma cytokines and LPS were determined at 18 weeks when differences in glucose tolerance were most apparent. Cytokine gene expression was measured in liver tissue by qPCR.

Results: Alveolar bone loss was significantly greater in GFPWT:WT chimeras treated with LPS compared with chimeras treated with PBS or GFPWT:KO chimeras. However, the degree of gingival inflammation was similar between GFPWT:WT and GFPWT:KO mice with LPS application. Severe GI/IR occurred in GFPWT:WT chimeras but not in the GFPWT:KO chimeras that were subjected to 18 weeks of LPS. Serum LPS was detected only in animals to which LPS was applied and the level was similar in GFPWT:WT and GFPWT:KO mice at the 18 week time point. Surprisingly, there was no significant difference in the plasma levels of IL1β, IL6 and TNFα at 18 weeks in spite of the severe GI/IR in the GFPWT:WT chimeras with LPS application. Also, no difference in the expression of TNFα or IL6 mRNA was detected in the liver of GFPWT:WT vs GFPWT:KO mice. In contrast, liver IL1β expression was significantly greater in GFPWT:WT chimeras compared to GFPWT:KO chimeras treated with LPS.

Conclusion: We observed that GFPWT:WT, but not GFPWT:KO chimeras, treated with LPS developed GI/IR despite similar degrees of gingival inflammation, circulating cytokine levels, and LPS concentrations. We conclude that LPS from periodontitis sites has a pivotal role in triggering the development of GI/IR through a mechanism that involves TLR4 expression by resident macrophages/Kupffer cells in the liver.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Allografts
  • Animals
  • Bone Marrow Transplantation
  • Chronic Disease
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Glucose Intolerance / genetics
  • Glucose Intolerance / metabolism*
  • Glucose Intolerance / pathology
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Kupffer Cells / metabolism*
  • Kupffer Cells / pathology
  • Lipopolysaccharides / toxicity
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Liver / pathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Periodontitis / chemically induced
  • Periodontitis / genetics
  • Periodontitis / metabolism*
  • Periodontitis / pathology
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4 / biosynthesis*
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4 / genetics
  • Transplantation Chimera


  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Tlr4 protein, mouse
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4