The influence of oral bacteria on tissue levels of Toll-like receptor and cytokine mRNAs in feline chronic gingivostomatitis and oral health

Sanne Maria Johanna Dolieslager, David Francis Lappin, David Bennett, Libby Graham, Norman Johnston, Marcello Pasquale Riggio

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Feline chronic gingivostomatitis (FCGS) is an inflammatory disease of the oral cavity that causes severe pain and distress in affected cats. Treatment methods are currently very limited. The aims of this study were to assess the feline innate immune response by investigating the levels of cytokine and Toll-like receptor (TLR) mRNAs in tissue biopsies of cats with and without FCGS, and to relate this to the presence or absence of putative oral pathogens identified previously within these cats. Mucosal biopsies were collected from 28 cats with FCGS and eight healthy cats. The levels of TLR (TLR2, TLR3, TLR4, TLR7, TLR9) and cytokine (IL-1β, IL-4, IL-6, IL-10, IL-12, TNF-α, IFN-γ) mRNA was determined using quantitative PCR. In the FCGS group a statistically significant increase was seen in TLR2, TLR7, TNF-α, IFN-γ, IL-1β and IL-6 mRNA levels compared to the healthy group. In cats where Tannerella forsythia was present, statistically significant increases were seen in TLR2, TLR4, TLR7, TLR9, TNF-α and IL-1β mRNA levels compared to cats where this putative pathogen was absent. Statistically significant increases in mRNA expression were also seen in cats harbouring feline calicivirus (FCV) (TLR2, IL-1β, IL-6, IFN-γ) and Porphyromonas circumdentaria (TLR2, TLR3) compared to cats where these putative pathogens were absent. Pasteurella multocida subsp. multocida and Pseudomonas sp. did not significantly alter the expression of any TLR or cytokine mRNAs when compared to animals who tested negative for these species, while cats colonised with P. multocida subsp. septica demonstrated a statistically significant reduction in the expression of TLR7, TNF-α and IFN-γ mRNAs compared to cats free of this species. The expression of mRNA for several TLRs and cytokines is elevated in FCGS. A positive correlation was observed between clinical disease severity and the presence of FCV (p=0.001; Rho=0.58). Although the number of cats harbouring T. forsythia was low by comparison, 80% of samples in which it was present were from cases with the highest clinical disease severity. Positive correlations with clinical disease severity were seen for TLR2 (p=0.00086), TLR7 (p=0.049), TNF-α (p=0.027), IFN-γ (p=0.0015), IL-1β (p=0.004) and IL-6 (p=0.00001) mRNAs. The putative pathogens FCV and T. forsythia may be important in stimulating a host immune response to FCGS and may play a role in the pathogenesis of this disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-74
Number of pages12
JournalVeterinary Immunology and Immunopathology
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2013


  • Animals
  • Bacteroidetes
  • Calicivirus, Feline
  • Cat Diseases
  • Cats
  • Cytokines
  • Female
  • Gingivitis
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Male
  • Mouth
  • Pasteurella multocida
  • Pseudomonas
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Stomatitis
  • Toll-Like Receptors


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