Polymorphonuclear leukocytes (neutrophils) constitute an integrated component of the innate host defense in the gingival sulcus/periodontal pocket. However, the keystone periodontal pathogen Porphyromonas gingivalis has in the course of evolution developed a number of capacities to subvert this defense to its own advantage. The present review describes the major mechanisms that P. gingivalis uses to subvert neutrophil homeostasis, such as impaired recruitment and chemotaxis, resistance to granule-derived antimicrobial agents and to the oxidative burst, inhibition of phagocytic killing while promoting a nutritionally favorable inflammatory response, and delay of neutrophil apoptosis. Studies in animal models have shown that at least some of these mechanisms promote the dysbiotic transformation of the periodontal polymicrobial community, thereby leading to inflammation and bone loss. It is apparent that neutrophil–P. gingivalis interactions and subversion of innate immunity are key contributing factors to the pathogenesis of periodontal disease.
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