The Capsule of Porphyromonas gingivalis Leads to a Reduction in the Host Inflammatory Response, Evasion of Phagocytosis, and Increase in Virulence
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Periodontal disease is a chronic oral inflammatory disease that is triggered by bacteria such as Porphyromonas gingivalis. P. gingivalis strains exhibit great heterogeneity, with some strains being encapsulated while others are nonencapsulated. Although the encapsulated strains have been shown to be more virulent in a mouse abscess model, so far the role of the capsule in P. gingivalis interactions with host cells is not well understood and its role in virulence has not been defined. Here, we investigated the contribution of the capsule to triggering a host response following microbial infection, as well as its protective role following bacterial internalization by host phagocytic cells with subsequent killing, using the encapsulated P. gingivalis strain W50 and its isogenic nonencapsulated mutant, PgC. Our study shows significant time-dependent upregulation of the expression of various groups of genes in macrophages challenged with both the encapsulated and nonencapsulated P. gingivalis strains. However, cells infected with the nonencapsulated strain showed significantly higher upregulation of 9 and 29 genes at 1 h and 8 h postinfection, respectively, than cells infected with the encapsulated strain. Among the genes highly upregulated by the nonencapsulated PgC strain were ones coding for cytokines and chemokines. Maturation markers were induced at a 2-fold higher rate in dendritic cells challenged with the nonencapsulated strain for 4 h than in dendritic cells challenged with the encapsulated strain. The rates of phagocytosis of the nonencapsulated P. gingivalis strain by both macrophages and dendritic cells were 4.5-fold and 7-fold higher, respectively, than the rates of phagocytosis of the encapsulated strain. On the contrary, the survival of the nonencapsulated P. gingivalis strain was drastically reduced compared to the survival of the encapsulated strain. Finally, the encapsulated strain exhibited greater virulence in a mouse abscess model. Our results indicate that the P. gingivalis capsule plays an important role in aiding evasion of host immune system activation, promoting survival of the bacterium within host cells, and increasing virulence. As such, it is a major virulence determinant of P. gingivalis.