• Article

Comprehensive defensin assay for saliva

Defensins are highly basic cationic peptides that are important components of the innate and adaptive immune response pathways. In addition, these peptides are involved in CD8+ T cell response to HIV-1, increased pulmonary infection risk among cystic fibrosis patients, upregulated levels of HNP-5 for patients with ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, and monitoring HNP-3 levels as a tumor classification scheme for cutaneous T cell lymphomas, and have promise in the pharmaceutical field as a new class of antibiotics. Here we present a parallel assay for the ? (HNP1?3) and ? (HBD1?2) classes of defensins in saliva that are naturally observed in the concentration range of 1 ng/mL to 10 ?g/mL. The method utilizes solid phase extraction of saliva samples combined with liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry to identify and quantitate defensin targets. The approach involves limited sample manipulation and is easily amenable to automation. The saliva samples analyzed are derived from a large cohort study focused on examining the role of polymorphisms in genes of innate and adaptive immunity in modulating the response to vaccination for two gastrointestinal tract infections: typhoid and cholera. The ?-defensin levels observed range from 1 to 10 ?g/mL and correlate well with known active concentrations against a wide variety of pathogens. The observed concentration range for ?-defensins was between the detection limit and 33 ng/mL and had a sensitivity level that was comparable to immunoassay-based detection. This method is easily adapted for use in a clinical immunology setting and can be modified for other biological matrixes. This assay will facilitate examination of the production, secretion, and regulation of defensin peptides in a direct fashion to coordinate levels of these compounds with gender, age, response to vaccination, gene copy number, and oral health.


Gardner, M., Rowland, M. D., Siu, A. Y., Bundy, J., Wagener, D., & Stephenson, J. (2009). Comprehensive defensin assay for saliva. Analytical Chemistry, 81(2), 557-566. DOI: 10.1021/ac801609r

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