Expression of receptor activator of nuclear factor-κB ligand by B cells in response to oral bacteria

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We investigated receptor activator of nuclear factor-κB ligand (RANKL) expression by B lymphocytes during early and late aspects of the immune response to Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, a gram-negative, anaerobic bacterium associated with aggressive periodontal disease.


Expression of messenger RNA transcripts (tumor necrosis factor-α, Toll-like receptors 4 and 9, interleukins 4 and 10, and RANKL) involved in early (1-day) and late (10-day) responses in cultured rat splenocytes was examined by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). The immune cell distribution (T, B, and natural killer cells and macrophages) in cultured rat splenocytes and RANKL expression in B cells were determined by flow cytometric analyses. B-cell capacity for induction of osteoclast differentiation was evaluated by coculture with RAW 264.7 cells followed by a tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase (TRAP) activity assay.


The expression levels of interleukins 4 and 10 in cultured cells were not changed in the presence of A. actinomycetemcomitans until cultured for 3 days, and peaked after 7 days. After culture for 10 days, the percentages of B and T cells, the overall RANKL messenger RNA transcripts, and the percentage of RANKL-expressing immunoglobulin G-positive cells were significantly increased in the presence of A. actinomycetemcomitans. These increases were considerably greater in cells isolated from A. actinomycetemcomitans-immunized animals than from non-immunized animals. RAW 264.7 cells demonstrated significantly increased TRAP activity when cocultured with B cells from A. actinomycetemcomitans-immunized animals. The addition of human osteoprotegerin-Fc to the culture significantly diminished such increases.


This study suggests that B-lymphocyte involvement in the immune response to A. actinomycetemcomitans through upregulation of RANKL expression potentially contribute to bone resorption in periodontal disease.

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