Antimicrobial defence mechanisms of the human parotid duct

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The parotid duct transports saliva from the gland into the oral cavity. However, its immune response properties, along with the secretion and moistening principles of the duct, have not yet been fully investigated. These properties may play an important role in protecting the parotid gland from infection and also prevent development of sialodocholithiasis, as the parotid duct – in contrast to the submandibular salivary duct – is often free of duct concrements. Up to now, only the parotid gland has been investigated, without regard to its duct. The present study analyses the structures of the parotid duct in their relations to antimicrobial defence mechanisms and rheological properties. Investigations were performed on 23 parotid ducts using histological, histochemical and immunohistochemical methods. Epithelial and goblet cells of the parotid duct synthesize a complex mucous layer that covers the epithelium. The viscosity is influenced by secreted mucins and TFF peptides. This layer contains carbohydrates including N-acetyl-glucosamine, N-acetyl-galactosamine, galactose, mannose, fucose and sialic acids. The lamina propria contains granulocytes, T lymphocytes and macrophages. IgA, produced by plasma cells in the subepithelial layer, is frequently integrated in the secretory product. Synthesized mucins, TFF peptides, carbohydrates and immunoglobulins form a complex layer that can be expected to prohibit infection and enables salivary flow. Our study demonstrates that the steady secretion of the parotid gland, together with the ductal cellular and biochemical immune protection system, is likely to thwart ascending infections in the parotid duct and gland.

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