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Dental caries is a major worldwide oral disease afflicting a large proportion of children. As an important host factor of caries susceptibility, saliva plays a significant role in the occurrence and development of caries. The aim of the present study was to characterize the healthy and cariogenic salivary proteome and determine the changes in salivary protein expression of children with varying degrees of active caries, also to establish salivary proteome profiles with a potential therapeutic use against dental caries.
In this study, unstimulated saliva samples were collected from 30 children (age 10–12 years) with no dental caries (NDC, n = 10), low dental caries (LDC, n = 10), and high dental caries (HDC, n = 10). Salivary proteins were extracted, reduced, alkylated, trypsin digested and labeled with isobaric tags for relative and absolute quantitation, and then they were analyzed with GO annotation, biological pathway analysis, hierarchical clustering analysis, and protein–protein interaction analysis. Targeted verifications were then performed using multiple reaction monitoring mass spectrometry.
A total of 244 differentially expressed proteins annotated with GO annotation in biological processes, cellular component and molecular function were identified in comparisons among children with varying degrees of active caries. A number of caries-related proteins as well as pathways were identified in this study. As compared with caries-free children, the most significantly enriched pathways involved by the up-regulated proteins in LDC and HDC were the ubiquitin mediated proteolysis pathway and African trypanosomiasis pathway, respectively. Subsequently, we selected 53 target proteins with differential expression in different comparisons, including mucin 7, mucin 5B, histatin 1, cystatin S and cystatin SN, basic salivary proline rich protein 2, for further verification using MRM assays. Protein–protein interaction analysis of these proteins revealed complex protein interaction networks, indicating synergistic action of salivary proteins in caries resistance or cariogenicity.
Overall, our results afford new insight into the salivary proteome of children with dental caries. These findings might have bright prospect in future in developing novel biomimetic peptides with preventive and therapeutic benefits for childhood caries.