The mucosal immune system has developed to protect epithelial surfaces from micro-organisms and comprises both specific responses, controlled through lymphocyte activity, and non-specific defence, which has both cellular and soluble components.
One important component of this defence is provided by T lymphocytes, which are present in both the epithelium and underlying connective tissues and salivary glands. These lymphocytes are important in immune surveillance, particularly in defence against intra-cellular pathogens, malignant transformation and graft rejection. T lymphocytes also play a key role in the pathogenesis of a number of immune mediated inflammatory disorders and in the oral cavity these include lichen planus, erythema multiforme and Crohn´s disease.
The mechanisms used by these lymphocytes to recirculate through the oral mucosa are poorly understood and the specific role of chemokines and beta 7 integrins in this process are being investigated.
BPIF-containing proteins (formerly known as PLUNCs are a family of novel proteins, which were discovered and sequenced in Sheffield by members of the oral disease group ( L. Bingle). These proteins have structural similarity to lipopolysaccharide binding protein and so are thought to be important components of innate immunity. Recently BPIF proteins have been shown to be present in saliva and are differentially expressed in different salivary glands. Their contribution to maintenance of oral health is currently being investigated.
Professor P. Farthing