For decades, investigations have identified local and systemic humoral immune responses to microorganisms comprising the supra- and subgingival biofilms in the oral cavity. Inflammation and tissue destruction in the periodontium are accompanied by alterations in the quantity, quality, and specificity of antibody. The conundrum in this scenario is the existence of a substantial plasma cell infiltrate at sites of periodontal lesions and a seemingly robust antibody response in the oral cavity and the serum, apparently coincident with progressing disease. Consequently, much effort has been expended to elucidate the critical characteristics of protective humoral responses and to develop strategies for enhancing these unique features. We and others have conducted studies attempting to distinguish disease susceptibility associated with: i) variations in response levels significantly increased to some species with disease, minimal response to others; ii) functional comparisons of antibody - subclass differences, genetic regulation, and maturation of responses; iii) microbial and antigenic specificity of the antibody focus on specific pathogens and identification of selected antigens as targets for immunoprotection; and, iv) kinetics of responses during disease and therapeutic interventions -linking immune changes with infection and as a measure of treatment success. This report summarizes varied research designs and results, to provide a profile of antibody in health, gingivitis, and periodontitis. These profiles may be used to provide a framework focusing on the humoral response to commensal microorganisms and likely pathogens, as they emerge in the biofilm etiologic for or in response to disease processes. Models for antibody as a diagnostic adjunct and for predicting protective antibody responses are suggested. These concepts are likely relevant for considering vaccine approaches to periodontitis. □ Antibody; antigens; biofilm; infection; inflammation; periodontitis.
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