The expression of gingival epithelial junctions in response to subgingival biofilms

Georgios N Belibasakis, Jeannette I Kast, Thomas Thurnheer, Cezmi A Akdis, and Nagihan Bostanci

Periodontitis is an infectious inflammatory disease that destroys the tooth-supporting tissues. It is caused by the formation of subgingival biofilms on the surface of the tooth. Characteristic bacteria associated with subgingival biofilms are the Gram-negative anaerobes Porphyromonas gingivalis, Tannerella forsythia and Treponema denticola, collectively known as the “red complex” species. Inter-epithelial junctions ensure the barrier integrity of the gingival epithelium. This may however be disrupted by the biofilm challenge. The aim of this in vitro study was to investigate the effect of subgingival biofilms on the expression of inter-epithelial junctions by gingival epithelia, and evaluate the relative role of the red complex. Multi-layered human gingival epithelial cultures were challenged with a 10-species in vitro subgingival biofilm model, or its variant without the red complex, for 3 h and 24 h. A low-density array microfluidic card platform was then used for analyzing the expression of 62 genes encoding for tight junctions, gap junctions, adherens junctions, and desmosomes. Although there was a limited effect of the biofilms on the expression of tight, adherens and gap junctions, the expression of a number of desmosomal components was affected. In particular, Desmoglein-1 displayed a limited and transient up-regulation in response to the biofilm. In contrast, Desmocollin-2, Desmoplakin and Plakoglobin were down-regulated equally by both biofilm variants, after 24 h. In conclusion, this subgingival biofilm model may down-regulate selected desmosomal junctions in the gingival epithelium, irrespective of the presence of the “red complex.” In turn, this could compromise the structural integrity of the gingival tissue, favoring bacterial invasion and chronic infection.


EpiGingival (GIN-100), periodontal disease, periodontitis, subgingival biofilm, tight junctions, gap junctions, adherens junctions, and desmosomes. Occludin, JAM-1, JAM-2, JAM-3, Tricellulin, Claudin-1, Claudin-2, Claudin-3, Claudin-4, Claudin-5, Claudin-6, Claudin-7, Claudin-8, Claudin-9, Claudin-10, Claudin-11, Claudin-12, Claudin-14, Claudin-15, Claudin-16, Claudin-17, Claudin-18, Claudin-19, Claudin-20, Claudin-23, Claudin-25, Claudin-26, Claudin-27, CMLP, Connexin-43, Connexin-32, Connexin-26, Connexin-30, Connexin-29, E-cadherin, Nectin-1, Nectin-2, Nectin-3, Desmoglein-1, Desmoglein-2, Desmoglein-3, Desmoglein-4, Desmocolin-1, Desmocolin-2, Desmocolin-3, MUPP1, ZO-1, ZO-2, ZO-3, Cingulin, Paracingulin, MAGI-1, MAGI-2, PATJ, MARVELD3, Plakoglobin, Desmoplakin, Plakophilin-1, Plakophilin-2, Plakophilin-3, Plakophilin-4, B-catenin, red complex

Materials Tested

Campylobacter rectus, Fusobacterium nucleatum, P. gingivalis, Prevotella intermedia, T. forsythia, T. denticola, Veillonella dispar, Actinomyces oris, Streptococcus anginosus, Streptococcus oralis, Gram-negative anaerobes

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