Interaction of oral bacteria with gingival epithelial cell multilayers

B. C. Dickinson, C. E. Moffatt, D. Hagerty, S. E. Whitmore, T. A. Brown, D. T. Graves, R. J. Lamont

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Primary gingival epithelial cells were cultured in multilayers as a model for the study of interactions with oral bacteria associated with health and periodontal disease. Multilayers maintained at an air-liquid interface in low-calcium medium displayed differentiation and cytokeratin properties characteristic of junctional epithelium. Multilayers were infected with fluorescently labeled Porphyromonas gingivalis, Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, Fusobacterium nucleatum or Streptococcus gordonii, and bacterial association was determined by confocal microscopy and quantitative image analysis. Porphyromonas gingivalis invaded intracellularly and spread from cell to cell; A. actinomycetemcomitans and F. nucleatum remained extracellular and showed intercellular movement through the multilayer; whereas S. gordonii remained extracellular and predominantly associated with the superficial cell layer. None of the bacterial species disrupted barrier function as measured by transepithelial electrical resistance. P. gingivalis did not elicit secretion of proinflammatory cytokines. However, A. actinomycetemcomitans and S. gordonii induced interleukin-1β (IL-1β), tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), IL-6 and IL-8 secretion; and F. nucleatum stimulated production of IL-1β and TNF-α. Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, F. nucleatum and S. gordonii, but not P. gingivalis, increased levels of apoptosis after 24h infection. The results indicate that the organisms with pathogenic potential were able to traverse the epithelium, whereas the commensal bacteria did not. In addition, distinct host responses characterized the interaction between the junctional epithelium and oral bacteria.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)210-220
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Oral Microbiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Oral commensals
  • Oral pathogens
  • Periodontal disease
  • Virulence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Dentistry(all)
  • Microbiology (medical)


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