Periodontitis is a highly prevalent, biofilm-mediated chronic inflammatory disease that results in the loss of the tooth-supporting tissues. It features two major clinical entities: chronic periodontitis, which is more common, and aggressive periodontitis, which usually has an early onset and a rapid progression. Natural killer (NK) cells are a distinct subgroup of lymphocytes that play a major role in the ability of the innate immune system to steer immune responses. NK cells are abundant in periodontitis lesions, and NK cell activation has been causally linked to periodontal tissue destruction. However, the exact mechanisms of their activation and their role in the pathophysiology of periodontitis are elusive. Here, we show that the predominant NK cell-activating molecule in periodontitis is CD2-like receptor activating cytotoxic cells (CRACC). We show that CRACC induction was significantly more pronounced in aggressive than chronic periodontitis and correlated positively with periodontal disease severity, subgingival levels of specific periodontal pathogens, and NK cell activation in vivo. We delineate how Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, an oral pathogen that is causally associated with aggressive periodontitis, indirectly induces CRACC on NK cells via activation of dendritic cells and subsequent interleukin 12 (IL-12) signaling. In contrast, we demonstrate that fimbriae from Porphyromonas gingivalis, a principal pathogen in chronic periodontitis, actively attenuate CRACC induction on NK cells. Our data suggest an involvement of CRACC-mediated NK cell activation in periodontal tissue destruction and point to a plausible distinction in the pathobiology of aggressive and chronic periodontitis that may help explain the accelerated tissue destruction in aggressive periodontitis.
- Cells, Cultured
- Fimbriae Proteins/immunology
- Gene Expression Regulation/immunology
- Killer Cells, Natural/physiology
- RNA, Messenger/genetics
- Receptors, Immunologic/genetics
- Signaling Lymphocytic Activation Molecule Family