A cross-sectional investigation into the association between Porphyromonas gingivalis and autoantibodies to citrullinated proteins in a German population

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  • University of Bonn


Background: Porphyromonas gingivalis (P.g) is unique among pathogens due to its ability to generate citrullinated proteins in an inflammatory milieu, potentially mediating the loss of immune tolerance, the production of anticitrullinated protein antibodies (ACPAs), and subsequently the development of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Based on this hypothesis, we set out to investigate whether P.g is linked to ACPAs in a well-characterized German population.

Participants and methods: A total of 600 participants (292 women and 308 men with a mean age of 67 years) of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition-Potsdam study were selected in 2013, and paired saliva and serum samples were collected. Salivary P.g DNA and serum anticyclic citrullinated peptide (anti-CCP2) levels were quantified by real-time polymerase chain reaction and anti-CCP2 enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, respectively. In selected participants, additional ACPA fine-specificities were also analysed on a custom-made multiplex peptide array.

Results: Among participants with C-reactive protein greater than 3.0 mg/l, a one-unit increase in P.g DNA was associated with an almost twofold increase in anti-CCP2 levels. Moreover, participants with high P.g DNA had on average approximately 2.8-times higher anti-CCP2 levels when compared with participants with low P.g DNA, (Holm-adjusted p value = 0.01). Furthermore, citrullinated epitopes on α-enolase and vimentin were common ACPA reactivities among participants who also had high P.g DNA and elevated C-reactive protein.

Conclusions: Our study suggests that in specific subgroups of individuals with systemic inflammation, higher salivary P.g DNA is associated with elevated serum ACPA. These data support a role for P.g in the development of anticitrulline immunity.


Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalTherapeutic Advances in Musculoskeletal Disease
Early online date5 Nov 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Nov 2019


  • anticitrullinated protein autoantibodies, C-reactive protein, population studies, Porphyromonas gingivalis, saliva, serum