Inhibition of gingipains prevents Porphyromonas gingivalis-induced preterm birth and fetal death in pregnant mice

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Accumulating epidemiological evidence indicates that infection with Porphyromonas gingivalis which is a major periodontal pathogen, causes preterm birth and low birth weight. However, virulence factors of P. gingivalis responsible for preterm birth/low birth weight remain to be elucidated. In this study, using P. gingivalis-infected pregnant mice as an in vivo model, we investigated whether gingipains—cysteine proteinases produced by P. gingivalis—affect preterm birth and low birth weight. We found that intravenous infection of pregnant mice with P. gingivalis induced higher accumulation of the bacterium in the placenta than that in other organs. Compared to infection with P. gingivalis wild-type, infection with a gingipain-deficient P. gingivalis mutant KDP136 led to significant reduction in preterm birth and pregnancy loss. Although repetitive low-level infections of P. gingivalis failed to induce preterm birth and fetal death, it induced suppressive effects on IFN-γ production. Therapeutically, treatment with ginginpain inhibitors prevented fetal death and preterm birth caused by P. gingivalis infection and resulted in recovery of IFN-γ suppression caused by repetitive chronic P. gingivalis infection. These results indicate that gingipains are major virulence factors of P. gingivalis responsible for preterm birth/low birth, and gingipain inhibitors may be useful not only as a therapeutic agent for periodontal diseases, but also as a preventive medicine for preterm birth/low birth weight.

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