Production of β-defensin antimicrobial peptides by the oral mucosa and salivary glands

Michael Mathews, Hong Peng Jia, Janet M. Guthmiller, Garrett Losh, Scott Graham, Georgia K. Johnson, Brian F. Tack, Paul B. McCray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

345 Scopus citations


β-Defensins are cationic peptides with broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity that are produced by epithelia at mucosal surfaces. Two human β- defensins, HBD-1 and HBD-2, were discovered in 1995 and 1997, respectively. However, little is known about the expression of HBD-1 or HBD-2 in tissues of the oral cavity and whether these proteins are secreted. In this study, we characterized the expression of HBD-1 and HBD-2 mRNAs within the major salivary glands, tongue, gingiva, and buccal mucosa and detected β-defensin peptides in salivary secretions. Defensin mRNA expression was quantitated by RNase protection assays. HBD-1 mRNA expression was detected in the gingiva, parotid gland, buccal mucosa, and tongue. Expression of HBD-2 mRNA was detected only in the gingival mucosa and was most abundant in tissues with associated inflammation. To test whether β-defensin expression was inducible, gingival keratinocyte cell cultures were treated with interleukin- 1β (IL-1β) or bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) for 24 h. HBD-2 expression increased ~16-fold with IL-1β treatment and ~5-fold in the presence of LPS. Western immunoblotting, liquid chromatography, and mass spectrometry were used to identify the HBD-1 and HBD-2 peptides in human saliva. Human β- defensins are expressed in oral tissues, and the proteins are secreted in saliva; HBD-1 expression was constitutive, while HBD-2 expression was induced by IL-1β and LPS. Human β-defensins may play an important role in the innate defenses against oral microorganisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2740-2745
Number of pages6
JournalInfection and immunity
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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