The gram-negative bacterium Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans is considered an important etiological agent in periodontal diseases. In this study, we show that A. actinomycetemcomitans strains are cytotoxic for the murine macrophage cell line J774.1. On the other hand, Porphyromonas gingivalis strains, other gram-negative oral species implicated in adult periodontitis, showed weak cytotoxic effects. For this to occur, A. actinomycetemcomitans had to gain entry into the macrophages, since cytotoxicity was prevented by cytochalasin D. We demonstrate that cell death induced by A. actinomycetemcomitans Y4 occurs through apoptosis, as shown by changes in nuclear morphology, an increase in the proportion of fragmented DNA, and the typical ladder pattern of DNA fragmentation indicative of apoptosis. We further sought to determine whether the cytotoxicity induced by A. actinomycetemcomitans Y4 could be modulated by the protein kinase inhibitors H7 and HA1004. Apoptotic cell death induced by A. actinomycetemcomitans Y4 was suppressed by H7 but was relatively unaffected by HA1004. These findings suggest that the signals of protein kinases may regulate apoptosis induced by A. actinomycetemcomitans Y4. The ability of A. actinomycetemcomitans to promote the apoptosis of macrophages may be important for the initiation of infection and the development of periodontal diseases
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