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Paper Chase

Pathogens and host immunity in the ancient human oral cavity.

Nat. Genet.. Feb 23, 2014;46(4):336-44.
Warinner C, Rodrigues JF, Vyas R, Trachsel C, Shved N, Grossmann J, Radini A, Hancock Y, Tito RY, Fiddyment S, Speller C, Hendy J, Charlton S, Luder HU, Salazar-García DC, Eppler E, Seiler R, Hansen LH, Castruita JA, Barkow-Oesterreicher S, Teoh KY, Kelstrup CD, Olsen JV, Nanni P, Kawai T, Willerslev E, von Mering C, Lewis CM, Collins MJ, Gilbert MT, Rühli F, Cappellini E.

1] Centre for GeoGenetics, Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark. [2].


Calcified dental plaque (dental calculus) preserves for millennia and entraps biomolecules from all domains of life and viruses. We report the first, to our knowledge, high-resolution taxonomic and protein functional characterization of the ancient oral microbiome and demonstrate that the oral cavity has long served as a reservoir for bacteria implicated in both local and systemic disease. We characterize (i) the ancient oral microbiome in a diseased state, (ii) 40 opportunistic pathogens, (iii) ancient human-associated putative antibiotic resistance genes, (iv) a genome reconstruction of the periodontal pathogen Tannerella forsythia, (v) 239 bacterial and 43 human proteins, allowing confirmation of a long-term association between host immune factors, 'red complex' pathogens and periodontal disease, and (vi) DNA sequences matching dietary sources. Directly datable and nearly ubiquitous, dental calculus permits the simultaneous investigation of pathogen activity, host immunity and diet, thereby extending direct investigation of common diseases into the human evolutionary past.