Saliva and Salivary Glands

MIRA EDGERTON, DDS, PhD personal profile

Antimicrobial defense mechanisms

Endogenous antimicrobial proteins are evolutionarily ancient contributors to innate host defense mechanisms, which are found throughout plant and animal species. Most of these bioactive proteins are basic, small in size (3-5 kDa), and have wide spectra of activity directed against bacteria, fungi and enveloped viruses. 

Antimicrobial defense mechanisms in the oral cavity are provided by four major non-immune proteins of salivary gland origin: lactoperoxidase, lysozyme, lactoferrin, and histatins (Hsts). These salivary proteins have unique structures, although they display overlapping antimicrobial activities and serve to rapidly limit infections. Histatins (Hsts) are structurally related histidine-rich basic proteins of acinar cell origin which possess in vitro candidacidal and candidastatic activities. Understanding mechanisms by which salivary antimicrobial proteins exert candidacidal activity and use of these bioactive peptides as therapeutic agents has been the objective of our research program.

Another area of Dr. Edgerton's research is available at Immunology and Innate Defenses