Porphyromonas gingivalisinitiates a mesenchymal-like transition through ZEB1 in gingival epithelial cells

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The oral anaerobe Porphyromonas gingivalis is associated with the development of cancers including oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC). Here, we show that infection of gingival epithelial cells with P. gingivalis induces expression and nuclear localization of the ZEB1 transcription factor, which controls epithelial–mesenchymal transition. P. gingivalis also caused an increase in ZEB1 expression as a dual species community with Fusobacterium nucleatum or Streptococcus gordonii. Increased ZEB1 expression was associated with elevated ZEB1 promoter activity and did not require suppression of the miR-200 family of microRNAs. P. gingivalis strains lacking the FimA fimbrial protein were attenuated in their ability to induce ZEB1 expression. ZEB1 levels correlated with an increase in expression of mesenchymal markers, including vimentin and MMP-9, and with enhanced migration of epithelial cells into matrigel. Knockdown of ZEB1 with siRNA prevented the P. gingivalis-induced increase in mesenchymal markers and epithelial cell migration. Oral infection of mice by P. gingivalis increased ZEB1 levels in gingival tissues, and intracellular P. gingivalis were detected by antibody staining in biopsy samples from OSCC. These findings indicate that FimA-driven ZEB1 expression could provide a mechanistic basis for a P. gingivalis contribution to OSCC.

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