The iron-binding protein lactoferrin is a ubiquitous and abundant constituent of human exocrine secretions. Lactoferrin inhibits bacterial growth by sequestering essential iron and also exhibits non-iron-dependent antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, antitumor, anti-inflammatory, and immunoregulatory activities. All of these non-iron-dependent activities are mediated by the highly charged N terminus of lactoferrin. In this study we characterized a Lys/Arg polymorphism at position 29 in the N-terminal region of human lactoferrin that results from a single nucleotide polymorphism in exon 1 of the human lactoferrin gene. We expressed cDNAs encoding both lactoferrin variants in insect cells and purified the two proteins by ion exchange chromatography. The two lactoferrin variants exhibited nearly identical iron-binding and iron-releasing activities and equivalent bactericidal activities against a strain of the gram-negative bacterium Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans. When tested against the gram-positive species Streptococcus mutans and Streptococcus mitis, however, lactoferrin containing Lys at position 29 exhibited significantly greater bactericidal activity than did lactoferrin containing Arg. In addition, the Lys-containing lactoferrin stimulated bovine tracheal epithelial cells to synthesize much higher levels of tracheal antimicrobial peptide mRNA than did the Arg-containing variant. A genotyping assay that distinguished between the two alleles based on a polymorphic EarI restriction site showed that the Lys and Arg alleles had frequencies of 24% and 76%, respectively, among 17 healthy human subjects, and 72% and 28%, respectively, among nine patients with localized juvenile periodontitis. Our findings suggest that these two lactoferrin variants are functionally different and that these differences may contribute to the pathogenesis of localized juvenile periodontitis.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Infectious Diseases