Human immunoglobulin G2 (IgG2) serum concentrations and the IgG2 antibody response to Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans can be influenced by genes, by environmental factors such as smoking, and by periodontal disease status. Examination of the IgG2 response to phosphorylcholine (PC), a response thought to be mainly induced by the C polysaccharide of Streptococcus pneumoniae, suggested that periodontal disease status was also associated with this response. This prompted the hypothesis that PC is an important oral antigen associated with organisms in the periodontal flora and that anti-PC antibody is elevated as a consequence of periodontal disease. Subjects in various periodontal disease diagnostic categories in which attachment loss is exhibited were tested for anti-PC in serum. Those with adult periodontitis, localized juvenile periodontitis, generalized early-onset periodontitis, and gingival recession all had similar levels of anti-PC IgG2 serum antibody which were significantly greater than in the group of subjects with no attachment loss. Analysis of plaque samples from subgingival and supragingival sites in all diseases categories for reactivity with the anti-PC specific monoclonal antibody TEPC-15 revealed that a substantial proportion of the bacteria in dental plaque (30 to 40%) bear PC antigen; this antigen was not restricted to morphotypes resembling only cocci but was also present on rods and branched filamentous organisms. We found that S. mitis, S. oralis, and S. sanguis, as well as oral actinomycetes, including A. viscosus, A. odontolyticus, and A. israelii, incorporated substantial amounts of [3H]choline from culture media. Further analysis of antigens derived from these organisms by Western blot indicated that S. oralis, S. sanguis, A. viscosus, A. odontolyticus, and A. israelii contained TEPC-15-reactive antigens. The data show that many commonly occurring bacterial species found in dental plaque contain PC antigen and that immunization with plaque-derived PC antigens as a consequence of inflammation and periodontal attachment loss may influence systemic anti-PC antibody concentrations
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