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Merinda Hall Bench B 23/09/2016 [1]


Higher order taxa

Bacteria – Bacteroidetes– Bacteroidia – Bacteroidales – Porphyromonadaceae – Porphyromonas


Porphyromonas gingivalis 2561T, ATCC 33277T, CCUG 25893T, CCUG 25928T, CIP 103683T, DSM 20709T, JCM 12257T, NCTC 11834T.

Description and significance

Bacteroides gingivalis, first isolated by Coykendall and colleagues from human oral periodontal pockets, was recognised as a species distinct from Bacteroides asaccharolyticus in 1980 [1]. Along with Bacteroides endodontalis, and B. asaccharolyticus, B. gingivalis was reclassified to its current genus designation of Porphyromonas in 1988 [2].

Porphyromonas gingivalis is an obligately anaerobic, gram negative coccobacillus that forms black pigmented colonies in culture [3]. It is capsulated, non-motile, and is unable to ferment carbohydrates, requiring a complex nutritional profile to be provided in its environment for optimal growth. Hence, like other members of this genus, P. gingivalis is commonly found in the oral cavity, particularly the subgingival region. In these favourable conditions, it can form biofilms with other community members, and has been implicated in the development of periodontitis [4]. P. gingivalis has also been implicated in heart disease [5], rheumatoid arthritis [6], respiratory tract infections [7], and complications during pregnancy [8]. The study of this microorganism is therefore relevant to our understanding of human disease, its treatment and prevention.

Genome structure

The genome of P. gingivalis strain W83 was fully sequenced in 2003 [9], and the type strain 5 years later [10]. Several additional strains have been recently sequenced expanding the knowledge of genetic variation within this species [11], [12].

The type strain genome consists of one circular chromosome, 2,354,886 base pairs in length, with an average G+C content of 48.4%. A total of 2090 coding sequences were identified, and 53 tRNA genes, covering 86.1% of the genome [10]. A significant degree of genetic variation is observed between strains, for example several type strain genes are more similar to genes of other bacterial species than to the P. gingivalis strain W83. This is likely due to the conjugative ability of this species, and various other mobile genetic elements [10], [13].

Cell structure and metabolism

The peptidoglycan of the P. gingivalis cell wall differs from related genera due to use of meso-diaminopimelic acid as the lysine component [2]. The lipid A subunit of the lipopolysaccharide (LPS) layer is also distinctive, alternating its structure according to environmental factors - such as hemin availability – which results in variable virulence of the bacteria to host cells [14]. Lacking flagella or type IV pili, P. gingivalis is non-motile, though it does possess a Por secretion system which provides gliding motility to other species within the Bacteroidetes phylum. In P. gingivalis, however, it is used instead for secretion of proteases such as gingipains [15]. Makeup of the capsular polysaccharide of P. gingivalis is strain specific, allowing serotyping based on capsular antigens [16].

P. gingivalis possess fimbriae essential for colonisation of periodontal surfaces, formation of biofilms, and therefore virulence. Expression of the major fimbriae (FimA) - which mediates adhesion to host surfaces - is responsive to environmental cues, resulting in variable levels of virulence due to the temperature, hemin concentration and the salivary molecules present [4]. Short fimbriae (Mfa1) mediate cell-cell adhesion and are therefore important for colony formation, and adhesion to other microbial species in the formation of biofilms [17].

The metabolism of glucose for energy is known to be poor in P. gingivalis, and it is rather by the fermentation of a number of different amino acids that it is able to gain energy. It also preferentially uses peptides for carbon and nitrogen sources. Based on genome analysis, the major metabolites that are likely produced by P. gingivalis include acetate, butyrate, propionate, isobutyrate, isovalerate, ethanol, and butanol. The production of succinyl-CoA from glutamate and aspartate is performed via a pathway not usually found in bacterial species. Additionally, the further conversion of succinyl-CoA to butyrate and propionate appears unique to P. gingivalis [9]. Lastly, the observable black pigmentation of colonies is due to accumulation of μ-oxo oligomers produced from the heme of red blood cells [15].


Due to the anaerobic and specific nutrient requirements of P. gingivalis, it is most commonly found in the oral cavity of humans, particularly inflamed gingival pockets, or infected root canals [4]. It has also been isolated in other cases of disease such as from the amniotic fluid of pregnant women [8] and in the lungs of pneumatic patients [7]. However, the anaerobic conditions produced by other species in plaque creates a particularly favourable environment, hence P. gingivalis most frequently adheres to organisms in newly formed plaque biofilms rather than directly to the tooth surface [4]. For example, following colonisation by gram-positive organisms, conciliatory bacteria such as Fusobacterium nucleatum bind, providing the conditions for pathogens such as P. gingivalis to join the plaque biofilm [14].


The opportunistic pathogenicity and invasiveness of P. gingivalis is environment specific. While capsulation is constant and required for virulence [10], the expression of other virulence factors are modulated in accordance with local conditions. Adhesion factors such as FimA, are required for contact and colonisation of host surfaces and plaque biofilms. A number of secreted proteases perform virulence functions: to mature fimbriae adhesions for cell-specific adhesion; to cleave host fibronectin and collagen for nutrient tissue infiltration; and to inactivate host cytokines and compliment factors and disrupt polymorphonuclear leukocytes, effectively inhibiting the local immune response. Expression of P. gingivalis adhesins and proteases, as well as the structure and therefore toxicity of its Lipid A molecule, are all induced in the presence of specific local conditions such as elevated temperature and hemin concentrations [4], [14], [18]. Therefore virulence is reduced in hosts supporting unfavourable conditions.

However the presence of P. gingivalis is not sufficient for formation of periodontal disease. A recent study demonstrated low abundance of P. gingivalis caused bone loss in mice with commensal oral microbiota, and not in germ-free mice [19]. It has been suggested that symbiosis between the three oral pathogenic bacteria P. gingivalis, Tannerella forsythia, and Treponema denticola - named the ‘red complex’ – has a unique role in the establishment of periodontal disease [20]. However, the more recent suggestion is that P. gingivalis initiates periodontal disease by mediating a shift in the homeostasis of the commensal oral microbiome towards dysbiosis, via alteration of the host immune response. For this reason P. gingivalis has been referred to as a ‘keystone pathogen’ [18].

Application to biotechnology

Concurrent to research examining the pathogenicity of P. gingivalis, is that focusing on development of novel treatments. In this aim, several avenues are being explored, including:

  • recombinant vaccination inducing immune response against the protease gingipains [21];
  • local inhibition of the host compliment system component C3 to reduce the sustained inflammation that supports P. gingivalis infection [22];
  • inhibition of protease gingipains by the proteins KYT -1 and KYT-36 from rice protein extracts [23];
  • compounds that block entry of P. gingivalis into oral epithelial cells [24];
  • altering the oral environment to make inhospitable to P. gingivalis [25], including by probiotic means [26].

Current research

A case of brain abscess by P. gingivalis in a patient with persistent periodontal disease was recently reported for the first time. The reporters suggest that P. gingivalis may be underestimated in its prevalence in brain abscesses of patients with poor dental hygiene [27].

Recent studies have associated P. gingivalis infection with esophageal cancer. Researchers found significantly higher levels of compounds unique to P. gingivalis in cancerous tissue compared with surrounding or normal tissue. This may be due to the preferential colonisation of cancerous tissue by this pathogen, or may implicate it in the development of esophageal cancer [28].


1. COYKENDALL AL, KACZMAREK FS, SLOTS J. (1980). Genetic Heterogeneity in Bacteroides asaccharolyticus (Holdeman and Moore 1970) Finegold and Barnes 1977 (Approved Lists, 1980) and Proposal of Bacteroides gingivalis sp. nov. and Bacteroides macacae (Slots and Genco) comb. nov. International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology 30: 559-64.

2. SHAH HN, COLLINS MD. (1988). Proposal for Reclassification of Bacteroides asaccharolyticus, Bacteroides gingivalis, and Bacteroides endodontalis in a New Genus, Porphyromonas. International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology 38: 128-31.

3. Cao H, Qi Z, Jiang H, Zhao J, Liu Z, Tang Z. (2012). Detection of Porphyromonas endodontalis, Porphyromonas gingivalis and Prevotella intermedia in primary endodontic infections in a Chinese population. International Endodontic Journal 45: 773-81.

4. Lamont RJ, Jenkinson HF. (2000). Subgingival colonization by Porphyromonas gingivalis. Oral Microbiology and Immunology 15: 341-349.

5. Zhang B, Khalaf H, Sirsjö A, Bengtsson T. (2015). Gingipains from the Periodontal Pathogen Porphyromonas gingivalis Play a Significant Role in Regulation of Angiopoietin 1 and Angiopoietin 2 in Human Aortic Smooth Muscle Cells. Infection and immunity 83: 4256.

6. Wegner N, Wait R, Sroka A, Eick S, Nguyen K-A, Lundberg K, et al. (2010). Peptidylarginine deiminase from Porphyromonas gingivalis citrullinates human fibrinogen and α-enolase: Implications for autoimmunity in rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis & Rheumatism 62: 2662-72.

7. Kimizuka R, Kato T, Ishihara K, Okuda K. (2003). Mixed infections with Porphyromonas gingivalis and Treponema denticola cause excessive inflammatory responses in a mouse pneumonia model compared with monoinfections. Microbes and infection / Institut Pasteur 5: 1357-62.

8. Hasegawa-Nakamura K, Tateishi F, Nakamura T, Nakajima Y, Kawamata K, Douchi T, et al. (2011). The possible mechanism of preterm birth associated with periodontopathic Porphyromonas gingivalis. Journal of Periodontal Research 46: 497-504.

9. Nelson KE, Fleischmann RD, DeBoy RT, Paulsen IT, Fouts DE, Eisen JA, et al. (2003). Complete Genome Sequence of the Oral Pathogenic Bacterium Porphyromonas gingivalis Strain W83. The Journal of Bacteriology 185: 5591.

10. Naito M, Hirakawa H, Yamashita A, Ohara N, Shoji M, Yukitake H, et al. (2008). Determination of the Genome Sequence of Porphyromonas gingivalis Strain ATCC 33277 and Genomic Comparison with Strain W83 Revealed Extensive Genome Rearrangements in P. gingivalis. DNA Research 15: 215-25.

11. Xie G, Chastain-Gross RP, Bélanger M, Kumar D, Whitlock JA, Liu L, et al. (2015). Genome Sequence of Porphyromonas gingivalis Strain AJW4. Genome Announcements 3

12. To TT, Liu Q, Watling M, Bumgarner RE, Darveau RP, McLean JS. (2016). Draft Genome Sequence of Low-Passage Clinical Isolate Porphyromonas gingivalis MP4-504. Genome announcements 4

13. Tribble G, Lamont G, Progulske-Fox A, Lamont R. (2007). Conjugal Transfer of Chromosomal DNA Contributes to Genetic Variation in the Oral Pathogen Porphyromonas gingivalis. Journal of Bacteriology 189: 6382.

14. Lee SH, Baek DH. (2013). Characteristics of Porphyromonas gingivalis lipopolysaccharide in co-culture with Fusobacterium nucleatum. Molecular Oral Microbiology 28: 230-238.

15. Nakayama K. (2015). Porphyromonas gingivalis and related bacteria: from colonial pigmentation to the type IX secretion system and gliding motility. Journal of Periodontal Research 50: 1-8.

16. Özmeriç N, Ragnar Preus H, Olsen I. (2000). Genetic diversity of Porphyromonas gingivalis and its possible importance to pathogenicity. Acta Odontologica Scandinavica 58: 183-187.

17. Lin X, Wu J, Xie H. (2006). Porphyromonas gingivalis Minor Fimbriae Are Required for Cell-Cell Interactions. Infection and Immunity 74: 6011.

18. Hajishengallis G, Lamont RJ. (2012). Beyond the red complex and into more complexity: the polymicrobial synergy and dysbiosis (PSD) model of periodontal disease etiology. Molecular Oral Microbiology 27: 409-419.

19. Hajishengallis G, Liang S, Payne Mark A, Hashim A, Jotwani R, Eskan Mehmet A, et al. (2011). Low-Abundance Biofilm Species Orchestrates Inflammatory Periodontal Disease through the Commensal Microbiota and Complement. Cell Host & Microbe 10: 497-506.

20. Darveau RP, Hajishengallis G, Curtis MA. (2012). Porphyromonas gingivalis as a Potential Community Activist for Disease. Journal of Dental Research 91: 816-820.

21. Reynolds EC, Brien-Simpson N, Rowe T, Nash A, McCluskey J, et al. (2015). Prospects for treatment of Porphyromonas gingivalis mediated disease - immune-based therapy. Journal of Oral Microbiology 7

22. Maekawa T, Abe T, Hajishengallis E, Hosur KB, DeAngelis RA, Ricklin D, et al. (2014). Genetic and Intervention Studies Implicating Complement C3 as a Major Target for the Treatment of Periodontitis. The Journal of Immunology 192: 6020-6027.

23. Taiyoji M, Yamanaka T, Tsuno T, Ohtsubo S. (2013). Potential Value of a Rice Protein Extract, Containing Proteinaceous Inhibitors against Cysteine Proteinases from Porphyromonas gingivalis, for Managing Periodontal Diseases. Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry 77: 80-86.

24. Ho M-H, Huang L, Goodwin JS, Dong X, Chen C-H, Xie H. (2016). Two Small Molecules Block Oral Epithelial Cell Invasion by Porphyromons gingivalis. PLoS ONE 11.

25. Moon J-H, Park J-H, Lee J-Y. (2011). Antibacterial Action of Polyphosphate on Porphyromonas gingivalis. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy 55: 806-812.

26. Lee S-H, Baek D-H. (2014). Effects of Streptococcus thermophilus on volatile sulfur compounds produced by Porphyromonas gingivalis. Archives of Oral Biology 59: 1205-1210.

27. Rae Yoo J, Taek Heo S, Kim M, Lee CS, Kim YR. (2016). Porphyromonas gingivalis causing brain abscess in patient with recurrent periodontitis. Anaerobe 39: 165-167.

28. Gao S, Li S, Ma Z, Liang S, Shan T, Zhang M, et al. (2016). Presence of Porphyromonas gingivalis in esophagus and its association with the clinicopathological characteristics and survival in patients with esophageal cancer. Infectious Agents and Cancer. 11: 1-9.

  1. MICR3004

This page is written by Merinda Hall for the MICR3004 course, Semester 2, 2016