Saliva-Derived Commensal and Pathogenic Biofilms in a Human Gingiva Model

J. K. Buskermolen, M. M. Janus, S. Roffel, B. P. Krom, S. Gibbs*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In vitro models that closely mimic human host-microbiome interactions can be a powerful screening tool for antimicrobials and will hold great potential for drug validation and discovery. The aim of this study was to develop an organotypic oral mucosa model that could be exposed to in vitro cultured commensal and pathogenic biofilms in a standardized and scalable manner. The oral mucosa model consisted of a tissue-engineered human gingiva equivalent containing a multilayered differentiated gingiva epithelium (keratinocytes) grown on a collagen hydrogel, containing gingiva fibroblasts, which represented the lamina propria. Keratinocyte and fibroblast telomerase reverse transcriptase–immortalized cell lines were used to overcome the limitations of isolating cells from small biopsies when scalable culture experiments were required. The oral biofilms were grown under defined conditions from human saliva to represent 3 distinct phenotypes: commensal, gingivitis, and cariogenic. The in vitro grown biofilms contained physiologic numbers of bacterial species, averaging >70 operational taxonomic units, including 20 differentiating operational taxonomic units. When the biofilms were applied topically to the gingiva equivalents for 24 h, the gingiva epithelium increased its expression of elafin, a protease inhibitor and antimicrobial protein. This increased elafin expression was observed as a response to all 3 biofilm types, commensal as well as pathogenic (gingivitis and cariogenic). Biofilm exposure also increased secretion of the antimicrobial cytokine CCL20 and inflammatory cytokines IL-6, CXCL8, and CCL2 from gingiva equivalents. This inflammatory response was far greater after commensal biofilm exposure than after pathogenic biofilm exposure. These results show that pathogenic oral biofilms have early immune evasion properties as compared with commensal oral biofilms. The novel host-microbiome model provides an ideal tool for future investigations of gingiva responses to commensal and pathogenic biofilms and for testing novel therapeutics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-208
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Dental Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018

Cite this