The oral microbiome has the potential to provide an important symbiotic function in human blood pressure physiology by contributing to the generation of nitric oxide (NO), an essential cardiovascular signaling molecule. NO is produced by the human body via conversion of arginine to NO by endogenous nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) but eNOS activity varies by subject. Oral microbial communities are proposed to supplement host NO production by reducing dietary nitrate to nitrite via bacterial nitrate reductases. Unreduced dietary nitrate is delivered to the oral cavity in saliva, a physiological process termed the enterosalivary circulation of nitrate. Previous studies demonstrated that disruption of enterosalivary circulation via use of oral antiseptics resulted in increases in systolic blood pressure. These previous studies did not include detailed information on the oral health of enrolled subjects. Using 16S rRNA gene sequencing and analysis, we determined whether introduction of chlorhexidine antiseptic mouthwash for 1 week was associated with changes in tongue bacterial communities and resting systolic blood pressure in healthy normotensive individuals with documented oral hygiene behaviors and free of oral disease. Tongue cleaning frequency was a predictor of chlorhexidine-induced changes in systolic blood pressure and tongue microbiome composition. Twice-daily chlorhexidine usage was associated with a significant increase in systolic blood pressure after 1 week of use and recovery from use resulted in an enrichment in nitrate-reducing bacteria on the tongue. Individuals with relatively high levels of bacterial nitrite reductases had lower resting systolic blood pressure. These results further support the concept of a symbiotic oral microbiome contributing to human health via the enterosalivary nitrate-nitrite-NO pathway. These data suggest that management of the tongue microbiome by regular cleaning together with adequate dietary intake of nitrate provide an opportunity for the improvement of resting systolic blood pressure.
Keywords: host-microbial symbiosis; microbial ecology; microbiome; nitrate; nitric oxide; oral microbiome.