Exogenous LL-37 but not homogenates of desquamated oral epithelial cells shows activity against Streptococcus mutans

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Objective: The antimicrobial peptide hCAP18/LL-37 is detected in desquamated epithelial cells of human whole saliva, but the functional importance of this pool of hCAP18/LL-37 is not understood. Here, we assess the impact of homogenates of desquamated oral epithelial cells and exogenous, synthetic LL-37 on two oral bacteria: S. mutans and S. gordonii. Material and methods: Desquamated epithelial cells of unstimulated whole saliva were isolated and cellular and extracellular levels of hCAP18/LL-37 analyzed by ELISA. Bacterial viability was determined by BacLight Live/Dead staining and confocal laser scanning microscopy. Results: Desquamated oral epithelial cells harboured hCAP18/LL-37, and they spontaneously released/leaked the peptide to their medium. Exogenous, synthetic LL-37 showed cytotoxic activity against S. mutans but not S gordonii, suggesting that LL-37 acts differentially on these two types of oral bacteria. Homogenates of desquamated oral epithelial cells had no effect on S. mutans viability. Treatment with exogenous, synthetic LL-37 (8 and 10 μM) reduced S. mutans viability, whereas lower concentrations (0.1 and 1 µM) of the peptide lacked effect. Conclusions: Desquamated oral epithelial cells contain hCAP18/LL-37, but their cellular levels of hCAP18/LL-37 are too low to affect S. mutans viability, whereas exogenous, synthetic LL-37 has a strong effect on these bacteria.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)466-472
JournalActa Odontologica Scandinavica
Issue number6
Early online date2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Dentistry
  • Microbiology in the medical area

Free keywords

  • Cathelicidin
  • host defense peptide
  • innate immunity
  • oral bacteria
  • saliva


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