Potential applications of antimicrobial peptides and their mimics in combating caries and pulpal infections

Sui Mai, Matthew T. Mauger, Li na Niu, Jonathan B. Barnes, Solon Kao, Brian E. Bergeron, Jun qi Ling, Franklin R. Tay

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations


Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are short cationic host-defense molecules that provide the early stage of protection against invading microbes. They also have important modulatory roles and act as a bridge between innate and acquired immunity. The types and functions of oral AMPs were reviewed and experimental reports on the use of natural AMPs and their synthetic mimics in caries and pulpal infections were discussed. Natural AMPs in the oral cavity, predominantly defensins, cathelicidins and histatins, possess antimicrobial activities against oral pathogens and biofilms. Incomplete debridement of microorganisms in root canal space may precipitate an exacerbated immune response that results in periradicular bone resorption. Because of their immunomodulatory and wound healing potentials, AMPs stimulate pro-inflammatory cytokine production, recruit host defense cells and regulate immuno-inflammatory responses in the vicinity of the pulp and periapex. Recent rapid advances in the development of synthetic AMP mimics offer exciting opportunities for new therapeutic initiatives in root canal treatment and regenerative endodontics. Statement of Significance Identification of new therapeutic strategies to combat antibiotic-resistant pathogens and biofilm-associated infections continues to be one of the major challenges in modern medicine. Despite the presence of commercialization hurdles and scientific challenges, interests in using antimicrobial peptides as therapeutic alternatives and adjuvants to combat pathogenic biofilms have never been foreshortened. Not only do these cationic peptides possess rapid killing ability, their multi-modal mechanisms of action render them advantageous in targeting different biofilm sub-populations. These factors, together with adjunctive bioactive functions such as immunomodulation and wound healing enhancement, render AMPs or their synthetic mimics exciting candidates to be considered as adjuncts in the treatment of caries, infected pulps and root canals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16-35
Number of pages20
JournalActa biomaterialia
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017


  • Antimicrobial peptides
  • Biofilms
  • Immunomodulation
  • Peptide mimics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Molecular Biology


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