Interleukin (IL)-31 is important for innate immunity in mucosal tissues and skin, and increased IL-31 expression participates in the pathogenesis of chronic inflammatory diseases affecting the skin, airways, lungs, and intestines. We investigated the contribution of mast cells to the induction of IL-31 production following infection with the periodontal pathogen, Porphyromonas gingivalis. We found that oral infection with P. gingivalis increased IL-31 expression in the gingival tissues of wild-type mice but not in those of mast cell-deficient mice. The P. gingivalis-induced IL-31 production by human mast cells occurred through the activation of the JNK and NF-κB signalling pathways and was dependent on the P. gingivalis lysine-specific protease gingipain-K. P. gingivalis infection induced IL-31 receptor α and oncostatin M receptor β expression in human gingival epithelial cells. Notably, the P. gingivalis-induced IL-31 production by mast cells led to the downregulation of claudin-1, a tight junction molecule, in gingival epithelial cells, resulting in an IL-31-dependent increase in the paracellular permeability of the gingival epithelial barrier. These findings suggest that IL-31 produced by mast cells in response to P. gingivalis infection causes gingival epithelial barrier dysfunction, which may contribute to the chronic inflammation observed in periodontitis.
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