Can Pulp Fibroblasts Kill Cariogenic Bacteria? Role of Complement Activation

  • Jeanneau C.
  • Rufas P.
  • Rombouts C.
  • Giraud T.
  • Dejou J.
  • About I.


Complement system activation has been shown to be involved in inflammation and regeneration processes that can be observed within the dental pulp after moderate carious decay. Studies simulating carious injuries in vitro have shown that when human pulp fibroblasts are stimulated by lipoteichoic acid (LTA), they synthetize all complement components. Complement activation leads to the formation of the membrane attack complex (MAC), which is known for its bacterial lytic effect. This work was designed to find out whether human pulp fibroblasts can kill Streptococcus mutans and Streptococcus sanguinis via complement activation. First, histological staining of carious tooth sections showed that the presence of S. mutans correlated with an intense MAC staining. Next, to simulate bacterial infection in vitro, human pulp fibroblasts were incubated in serum-free medium with LTA. Quantification by an enzymatic assay showed a significant increase of MAC formation on bacteria grown in this LTA-conditioned medium. To determine whether the MAC produced by pulp fibroblasts was functional, bacteria sensitivity to LTA-conditioned medium was evaluated using agar well diffusion assay and succinyl dehydrogenase (3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-y1)-2,5-diphenyl tetrazolium bromide [MTT]) assay. Both assays showed that S. mutans and S. sanguinis were sensitive to LTA-conditioned medium. Finally, to evaluate whether MAC formation on cariogenic bacteria, by pulp fibroblasts, can be directly induced by the presence of these bacteria, a specific coculture model of human pulp fibroblasts and bacteria was developed. lmmunofluorescence revealed an intense MAC labeling on bacteria after direct contact with pulp fibroblasts. The observed MAC formation and its lethal effects were significantly reduced when CD59, an inhibitor of MAC formation, was added. Our findings demonstrate that the MAC produced by LTA-stimulated pulp fibroblasts is functional and can kill S. mutans and S. sanguinis. Taken together, these data clearly highlight the function of pulp fibroblasts in destroying cariogenic bacteria.