Salivary histatins are bioactive peptides related to the innate immune system associated with antimicrobial activities. However, very little is known about the physiological and biological functions of histatins against host cells or their role in oral cell inflammation. Histatin 3 binds to heat shock cognate protein 70 (HSC70, a constitutively expressed heat shock protein (HSP)). It is unclear whether HSC70 is involved in the inflammatory response in oral cells. Injured oral cells release some intracellular proteins including HSC70. It is possible that released HSC70 induces toll-like receptor (TLR) activation, just as extracellular HSP70 (a stress inducible HSP) does, and that histatin 3 affects this process. Therefore, we tested the hypothesis that HSC70 activates TLR signaling and histatin 3 inhibits this activation and inflammatory cytokine production.
A nuclear factor (NF)-κB-dependent luciferase reporter plasmid was transfected into HEK293 cells stably expressing TLR2 with coreceptor CD14 (293-TLR2/CD14 cells) or stably expressing TLR4 with CD14 and the accessory molecule MD2 (293-TLR4/MD2-CD14 cells). The cells were stimulated with HSC70 in the presence or absence of histatin 3, and examined using luciferase assays. We also stimulated human gingival fibroblasts (HGFs) with HSC70 with or without histatin 3. Then, we analyzed the levels of inflammatory cytokines (interleukin (IL)-6 and IL-8) in the culture media. Cell proteins were analyzed using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and Western blotting with antibodies of mitogen-activated protein kinases and NF-κB inhibitor IκB-α, respectively. Histatin 3-bound form of HSC70 was analyzed using limited V8 protease proteolysis.
HSC70 induced NF-κB activation in a dose-dependent manner in 293-TLR2/CD14 and 293-TLR4/MD2-CD14 cells, and histatin 3 inhibited this process and when histatin 3 binding to HSC70 was precluded by 15-deoxyspergualin, which augmented NF-κB-triggered activation. In HGFs, histatin 3 also inhibited HSC70-induced inflammatory cytokine production, extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase phosphorylation, and degradation of IκB-α. Moreover, HSC70 in the presence of histatin 3 was relatively resistant to digestion by V8 protease compared with HSC70 in the presence of control peptide.