How Does P. Gingivalis Contribute to Atherosclerosis?

Atherosclerosis is one of the most common causes of death, yet according to statistics from the American Heart Association, half of the patients with atherosclerosis lacked the most common risk factors: hypertension, high cholesterol, and smoking. Research show us atherosclerosis is an inflammatory disease.

According to a study recently published in the Journal of PLoS ONE, researchers evaluated the role of Regulatory T cells (Tregs) in the autoimmune response to oral pathogen Porphyromonas gingivalis.

Takeaways from this study include:

  • Oral pathogens play a key role in most inflammatory diseases including atherosclerosis.
  • T-cells play a key role in our immune system. Regulatory T-cells (Tregs) play an important role in maintaining immune system homeostasis.
  • Tregs produce cytokines that can be beneficial but can also be destructive.
  • Up-regulation and transfer of Tregs can inhibit the induction of T-cells and macrophages into atherosclerotic plaque.
  • Tregs produce high levels of interleukin-10 and decrease the process of atherosclerotic plaque development.
  • P. gingigvalis infection may be associated with the dysfunction of Tregs in atherosclerosis progression.
  • One particular type of P. gingigvalisP. gingigvalis FimA Genotype ll is the dominant type of P. gingigvalis associated with decreased Tregs

In summation, it appears that when Tregs are increased, there is a decrease in the development of atherosclerotic plaque. When Tregs are decreased, there is an increase in both hypercholesteremia and atherosclerotic plaque development. When a P. gingivalis infection is present, Tregs are decreased, therefore inciting an increase in atherosclerotic plaque.

Read the full study here to learn more about the mechanisms behind the autoimmune response to P. gingivalis infection and atherosclerosis.