Porphyromonas gingivalis impairs oral epithelial barrier through targeting GRHL2


  • W. Chen
  • A. Alshaikh
  • S. Kim
  • J. Kim
  • C. Chun
  • S. Mehrazarin
  • J. Lee
  • R. Lux
  • R.H. Kim
  • K.H. Shin
  • N.H. Park
  • K. Walentin
  • K.M. Schmidt-Ott
  • M K Kang


  • Journal of Dental Research


  • J Dent Res 98 (10): 1150-1158


  • Oral mucosa provides the first line of defense against a diverse array of environmental and microbial irritants by forming the barrier of epithelial cells interconnected by multiprotein tight junctions (TJ), adherens junctions, desmosomes, and gap junction complexes. Grainyhead-like 2 (GRHL2), an epithelial-specific transcription factor, may play a role in the formation of the mucosal epithelial barrier, as it regulates the expression of the junction proteins. The current study investigated the role of GRHL2 in the Porphyromonas gingivalis (Pg)-induced impairment of epithelial barrier functions. Exposure of human oral keratinocytes (HOK-16B and OKF6 cells) to Pg or Pg-derived lipopolysaccharides (Pg LPSs) led to rapid loss of endogenous GRHL2 and the junction proteins (e.g., zonula occludens, E-cadherin, claudins, and occludin). GRHL2 directly regulated the expression levels of the junction proteins and the epithelial permeability for small molecules (e.g., dextrans and Pg bacteria). To explore the functional role of GRHL2 in oral mucosal barrier, we used a Grhl2 conditional knockout (KO) mouse model, which allows for epithelial tissue-specific Grhl2 KO in an inducible manner. Grhl2 KO impaired the expression of the junction proteins at the junctional epithelium and increased the alveolar bone loss in the ligature-induced periodontitis model. Fluorescence in situ hybridization revealed increased epithelial penetration of oral bacteria in Grhl2 KO mice compared with the wild-type mice. Also, blood loadings of oral bacteria (e.g., Bacteroides, Bacillus, Firmicutes, β-proteobacteria, and Spirochetes) were significantly elevated in Grhl2 KO mice compared to the wild-type littermates. These data indicate that Pg bacteria may enhance paracellular penetration through oral mucosa in part by targeting the expression of GRHL2 in the oral epithelial cells, which then impairs the epithelial barrier by inhibition of junction protein expression, resulting in increased alveolar tissue destruction and systemic bacteremia.