This study determined if dentin proteases are denatured by phosphoric acid (PA) used in etch-and-rinse dentin adhesives. Dentin beams were completely demineralized with EDTA for 30 days. We "acid-etched" experimental groups by exposing the demineralized dentin beams to 1, 10, or 37 mass% PA for 15 sec or 15 min. Control beams were not exposed to PA but were incubated in simulated body fluid for 3 days to assay their total endogenous telopeptidase activity, by their ability to solubilize C-terminal crosslinked telopeptides ICTP and CTX from insoluble dentin collagen. Control beams released 6.1 ± 0.8 ng ICTP and 0.6 ± 0.1 ng CTX/mg dry-wt/3 days. Positive control beams pre-incubated in p-aminophenylmercuric acetate, a compound known to activate proMMPs, released about the same amount of ICTP peptides, but released significantly less CTX. Beams immersed in 1, 10, or 37 mass% PA for 15 sec or 15 min released amounts of ICTP and CTX similar to that released by the controls (p > 0.05). Beams incubated in galardin, an MMP inhibitor, or E-64, a cathepsin inhibitor, blocked most of the release of ICTP and CTX, respectively. It is concluded that PA does not denature endogenous MMP and cathepsin activities of dentin matrices.
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