How has neutrophil research improved our understanding of periodontal pathogenesis?

Gabriel Nussbaum, Lior Shapira*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

140 Scopus citations


Background: Neutrophils are the predominant cells responsible for host defence against bacterial infection. Loss of neutrophil defence, due either to deficient number or function, strongly predisposes to bacterial infections such as periodontitis. Yet, the neutrophil oxidative and proteolytic arsenal has also been implicated in perpetrating periodontal tissue damage in periodontitis. Aim: In this review, we focus on recent developments that shed light on these two aspects of neutrophil function in periodontitis. Methods: Primary search: using PubMed search for "neutophil", "periodontal", and "periodontitis". Secondary search: using references from the articles found in the first stage. Results: Early histological studies showed that infiltrating neutrophils form a wall of cells abutting the junctional epithelium in periodontal inflammatory lesions. The chronic standoff between these neutrophils and the bacterial community suggests that bacterial evasion of neutrophil clearance is a major characteristic of periodontitis. Indeed, not all functional neutrophil deficiencies increase the risk of periodontitis, an observation that points the way towards identification of particular anti-bacterial pathways essential for protection against periodontal pathogens. The net result in the majority of periodontitis patients who exhibit normal neutrophil number and function, is that neutrophils accumulate in the periodontal tissue where they are available to participate in tissue destruction. Diminished neutrophil clearance further contributes to the persistence of activated neutrophils in the periodontal tissue. Conclusions: Data on the role of neutrophils in the pathogenesis of periodontitis are mixed. Neutrophils are a critical arm of the defence against periodontitis, but bacterial evasion of the neutrophil microbicidal machinery coupled with delayed neutrophil apoptosis may transform the neutrophil from defender to perpetrator. At this stage of knowledge, attempts to induce host modulation through neutrophil suppression or activation are premature.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)49-59
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Clinical Periodontology
Issue numberSUPPL. 11
StatePublished - Mar 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Inflammation
  • Neutrophils
  • Periodontal pathogenesis
  • Periodontitis


Dive into the research topics of 'How has neutrophil research improved our understanding of periodontal pathogenesis?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this