Indexed on: 05 Mar '16Published on: 05 Mar '16Published in: Seminars in Immunology
Although historically viewed as merely anti-microbial effectors in acute infection or injury, neutrophils are now appreciated to be functionally versatile with critical roles also in chronic inflammation. Periodontitis, a chronic inflammatory disease that destroys the tooth-supporting gums and bone, is particularly affected by alterations in neutrophil numbers or function, as revealed by observations in monogenic disorders and relevant mouse models. Besides being a significant debilitating disease and health burden in its own right, periodontitis is thus an attractive model to dissect uncharted neutrophil-associated (patho)physiological pathways. Here, we summarize recent evidence that neutrophils can contribute to inflammatory bone loss not only through the typical bystander injury dogma but intriguingly also through their absence from the affected tissue, where they normally perform important immunomodulatory functions. Moreover, we discuss recent advances in the interactions of neutrophils with the vascular endothelium and - upon extravasation - with bacteria, and how the dysregulation of these interactions leads to inflammatory tissue damage. Overall, neutrophils have both protective and destructive roles in periodontitis, as they are involved in both the maintenance of periodontal tissue homeostasis and the induction of inflammatory bone loss. This highlights the importance of developing approaches that promote or sustain a fine balance between homeostatic immunity and inflammatory pathology.