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Host Defense Proteins Derived from Human Saliva Bind to Staphylococcus aureus

Host Defense Proteins Derived from Human Saliva Bind to Staphylococcus aureus

  1. Stefan Ruhla
  1. aDepartment of Oral Biology, The State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York, USA
  2. bDepartment of Cell Stress Biology, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, New York, USA
  1. B. A. McCormick, Editor


Proteins in human saliva are thought to modulate bacterial colonization of the oral cavity. Yet, information is sparse on how salivary proteins interact with systemic pathogens that transiently or permanently colonize the oral environment. Staphylococcus aureus is a pathogen that frequently colonizes the oral cavity and can cause respiratory disease in hospitalized patients at risk. Here, we investigated salivary protein binding to this organism upon exposure to saliva as a first step toward understanding the mechanism by which the organism can colonize the oral cavity of vulnerable patients. By using fluorescently labeled saliva and proteomic techniques, we demonstrated selective binding of major salivary components by S. aureus to include DMBT1gp-340, mucin-7, secretory component, immunoglobulin A, immunoglobulin G, S100-A9, and lysozyme C. Biofilm-grown S. aureus strains bound fewer salivary components than in the planctonic state, particularly less salivary immunoglobulins. A corresponding adhesive component on the S. aureus surface responsible for binding salivary immunoglobulins was identified as staphylococcal protein A (SpA). However, SpA did not mediate binding of nonimmunoglobulin components, including mucin-7, indicating the involvement of additional bacterial surface adhesive components. These findings demonstrate that a limited number of salivary proteins, many of which are associated with various aspects of host defense, selectively bind to S. aureus and lead us to propose a possible role of saliva in colonization of the human mouth by this pathogen.


    • Received 6 August 2012.
    • Returned for modification 10 September 2012.
    • Accepted 1 February 2013.
  • Address correspondence to Stefan Ruhl, shruhl{at}
  • * Present address: Seok-Mo Heo, Department of Periodontology, Chonbuk National University, Jeonju, Korea.

  • Published ahead of print 12 February 2013

  • Supplemental material for this article may be found at