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Antimicrobial Peptides and their Potential as Oral Therapeutic Agents

Dental caries (tooth decay) and periodontal diseases are the most prevalent bacterial infectious diseases of mankind, together affecting almost the entire population of the world. Both diseases are caused by oral bacteria that exist as components of a polymicrobial biofilm, known as dental plaque, on the tooth surface. The control of specific types of bacteria and/or total numbers of bacteria in dental plaque could lead to prevention or resolution of disease. Antimicrobial peptides isolated from a wide range of natural sources have been known for over 30 years yet little progress had been made in the therapeutic application of these peptides. This is due in part to the characteristics, including susceptibility to proteolysis, of the cationic amphipathic antimicrobial peptides that form the majority of peptides discovered to date. Bovine milk is a readily available source of a range of bioactive peptides. We have isolated and characterized a novel anionic antimicrobial peptide, Kappacin, from bovine milk. Antibacterial activity of the peptide is increased when it is complexed with zinc ions. We have demonstrated that a Kappacin:Zn2+ preparation is able to suppress the growth of oral cariogenic bacteria in a biofilm. The Kappacin:Zn2+ antibacterial complex may have potential as an additive to oral care products and other delivery vehicles for the control of oral disease.

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We would like to thank Keith Cross, Neil O’Brien-Simpson, Rita Paolini, Deanne Catmull, Gitti Hoffmann and Marina Malkoski for their contributions to the research. Parts of this research were funded by the CRC for Oral Health Science, Recaldent Pty Ltd. and the Dairy Research and Development Corporation (Australia).

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Correspondence to Eric C. Reynolds.

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Dashper, S.G., Liu, S.W. & Reynolds, E.C. Antimicrobial Peptides and their Potential as Oral Therapeutic Agents. Int J Pept Res Ther 13, 505–516 (2007).

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  • Antimicrobial peptides
  • dental caries
  • periodontal disease
  • Kappacin
  • bacterial biofilm