• human immunodeficiency virus;
  • mast cells;
  • matrix metalloproteinases;
  • periodontitis

Background:  Mast cells are a prominent cell type in the gingival infiltrate in periodontitis. In this study we examined the expression by gingival mast cells of matrix metalloproteinases, MMP-1, MMP-2, MMP-8 and the tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases, TIMP-1 and TIMP-2.

Methods:  Gingival specimens from 12 human immunodeficiency virus-negative (HIV) and 15 HIV-positive (HIV+) patients with chronic marginal periodontitis (CMP), and from 10 HIV and four HIV+ controls with clinically healthy gingiva (HG) were examined after double immunofluorescence staining for mast cell tryptase, combined with antibodies for MMP-1, MMP-2, MMP-8 or their inhibitors TIMP-1 and TIMP-2.

Results:  In the HIV+CMP, HIV+HG and HIVCMP groups, all mast cells expressed MMP-1 and MMP-8, whereas a smaller proportion (40–60%) in the HIVHG controls displayed such staining. The former groups also displayed a significantly higher proportion (39–64%) of mast cells expressing MMP-2 as compared with the HIVHG group (21–31%). All groups displayed similar proportions of TIMP-1 expressing mast cells (86–100%), whereas significantly increased proportions of TIMP-2+ mast cells were seen in the HIV+CMP, HIV+HG and HIVCMP groups (18–25%) as compared with the HIVHG group (8–13%). Mast cells were the cell type that most prominently expressed MMP-1 and MMP-8. MMP-2 expression was also strong in mast cells, but was also similarly expressed in other cell types.

Conclusion:  The chronically inflamed periodontal lesions in the present study appeared with little evidence of mast cell degranulation. The results show, however, that mast cells in inflamed gingiva have the potential to degrade extracellular matrix if appropriately triggered.