Cannabinoid control of gingival immune activation in chronically SIV-infected rhesus macaques involves modulation of the indoleamine-2,3-dioxygenase-1 pathway and salivary microbiome

Marina McDew-White, Eunhee Lee, Xavier Alvarez, Karol Sestak, Binhua J. Ling, Siddappa N. Byrareddy, Chioma M. Okeoma, Mahesh Mohan

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12 Scopus citations


Background: HIV/SIV-associated periodontal disease (gingivitis/periodontitis) (PD) represents a major comorbidity affecting people living with HIV (PLWH) on combination anti-retroviral therapy (cART). PD is characterized by chronic inflammation and dysbiosis. Nevertheless, the molecular mechanisms and use of feasible therapeutic strategies to reduce/reverse inflammation and dysbiosis remain understudied and unaddressed. Methods: Employing a systems biology approach, we report molecular, metabolome and microbiome changes underlying PD and its modulation by phytocannabinoids [delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC)] in uninfected and SIV-infected rhesus macaques (RMs) untreated (VEH-untreated/SIV) or treated with vehicle (VEH/SIV) or Δ9-THC (THC/SIV). Findings: VEH- untreated/SIV but not THC/SIV RMs showed significant enrichment of genes linked to anti-viral defense, interferon-β, NFκB, RIG-1, and JAK-STAT signaling. We focused on the anti-microbial DUOX1 and immune activation marker IDO1 that were reciprocally regulated in the gingiva of VEH-untreated/SIV RMs. Both proteins localized to the gingival epithelium and CD163+ macrophages, and showed differential expression in the gingiva of THC/SIV and VEH/SIV RMs. Additionally, inflammation-associated miR-21, miR-142–3p, miR-223, and miR-125a-5p showed significantly higher expression in the gingiva of VEH/SIV RMs. In human primary gingival epithelial cells, miR-125a-5p post-transcriptionally downregulated DUOX1 and THC inhibited IDO1 protein expression through a cannabinoid receptor-2 mediated mechanism. Interestingly, THC/SIV RMs showed relatively reduced plasma levels of kynurenine, kynurenate, and the neurotoxic quinolinate compared to VEH/SIV RMs at 5 months post SIV infection (MPI). Most importantly, THC blocked HIV/SIV-induced depletion of Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes, and reduced Gammaproteobacteria abundance in saliva. Reduced IDO1 protein expression was associated with significantly (p<0.05) higher abundance of Prevotella, Lactobacillus (L. salivarius, L. buchneri, L. fermentum, L. paracasei, L. rhamnosus, L. johnsonii) and Bifidobacteria and reduced abundance of the pathogenic Porphyromonas cangingivalis and Porphyromonas macacae at 5MPI. Interpretation: The data provides deeper insights into the molecular mechanisms underlying HIV/SIV-induced PD and more importantly, the anti-inflammatory and anti-dysbiotic properties of THC in the oral cavity. Overall, these translational findings suggest that phytocannabinoids may help reduce gingival/systemic inflammation, salivary dysbiosis and potentially metabolic disease/syndrome in PLWH on cART and those with no access to cART or do not suppress the virus under cART. Funding: Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institutes of Health Award Numbers R01DA052845 (MM and SNB), R01DA050169 (MM and CO), R01DA042524 and R56DE026930 (MM), and P51OD011104 and P51OD011133. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103769
StatePublished - Jan 2022


  • Bifidobacteria
  • DUOX1
  • Gingival inflammation
  • IDO1
  • Lactobacilli
  • Prevotella
  • Rhesus macaque
  • SIV
  • THC
  • miR-125a-5p

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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