Porphyromonas gingivalis survives within KB cells and modulates inflammatory response

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The purpose of the study was to investigate the intracellular survival of Porphyromonas gingivalis as a possible mechanism for maintaining periodontitis.


P. gingivalis strains, the strain ATCC 33277 and seven clinical isolates, were co-cultured with KB cells. The number of intracellular bacteria was determined up to 3 days after infection. In addition, the numbers of KB cells per well, the concentrations of the cytokines interleukin-1β (IL-1β), IL-6, IL-8 and tumour necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) and the arginine-specific amidolytic activity were measured. The 16S rRNA of P. gingivalis and the mRNA expression of IL-1β, IL-6, IL-8, TNF-α and rgpA were also determined.


All the P. gingivalis strains studied were able to survive within KB cells. In contrast to the reduced values of colony-forming units at day 3, equal and higher levels of 16S rRNA were seen in comparison to day 0. Arginine-specific amidolytic activity declined in all samples during infection. Expression of mRNA for rgpA was not found after infection of KB cells by P. gingivalis strains. IL-8 was detectable in all samples 2 days after infection with P. gingivalis strains. Principal components analysis underlined a correlation between the arginine-specific amidolytic activity 1 h after infection and both the released IL-8 and the mRNA expression of IL-8. Associations were found between the cultivable numbers of intracellular P. gingivalis and the mRNAs of IL-1, IL-6 and TNF-α at the day of infection.


The results indicate survival of P. gingivalis within epithelial cells, possibly in a non-cultivable stage. Invasion into cells modulates the virulence properties of P. gingivalis as well as the inflammatory response of the cells.

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