Top-Down Proteomics of Human Saliva Highlights Anti-inflammatory, Antioxidant, and Antimicrobial Defense Responses in Alzheimer Disease

Cristina Contini, Alessandra Olianas, Simone Serrao, Carla Deriu, Federica Iavarone, Mozhgan Boroumand, Alessandra Bizzarro, Alessandra Lauria, Gavino Faa, Massimo Castagnola, Irene Messana, Barbara Manconi, Carlo Masullo, Tiziana Cabras

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Alzheimer disease (AD) is the most prevalent neurodegenerative disease in the elderly, characterized by accumulation in the brain of misfolded proteins, inflammation, and oxidative damage leading to neuronal cell death. By considering the viewpoint that AD onset and worsening may be influenced by environmental factors causing infection, oxidative stress, and inflammatory reaction, we investigated the changes of the salivary proteome in a population of patients with respect to that in healthy controls (HCs). Indeed, the possible use of saliva as a diagnostic tool has been explored in several oral and systemic diseases. Moreover, the oral cavity continuously established adaptative and protective processes toward exogenous stimuli. In the present study, qualitative/quantitative variations of 56 salivary proteoforms, including post-translationally modified derivatives, have been analyzed by RP-HPLC-ESI-IT-MS and MS/MS analyses, and immunological methods were applied to validate MS results. The salivary protein profile of AD patients was characterized by significantly higher levels of some multifaceted proteins and peptides that were either specific to the oral cavity or also expressed in other body districts: (i) peptides involved in the homeostasis of the oral cavity; (ii) proteins acting as ROS/RNS scavengers and with a neuroprotective role, such as S100A8, S100A9, and their glutathionylated and nitrosylated proteoforms; cystatin B and glutathionylated and dimeric derivatives; (iii) proteins with antimicrobial activity, such as α-defensins, cystatins A and B, histatin 1, statherin, and thymosin β4, this last with a neuroprotective role at the level of microglia. These results suggested that, in response to injured conditions, Alzheimer patients established defensive mechanisms detectable at the oral level. Data are available via ProteomeXchange with identifier PXD021538.

Original languageEnglish
Article number668852
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - May 26 2021


  • Alzheimer disease
  • antimicrobial peptides
  • cystatins
  • oxidative stress
  • S100A
  • salivary proteomics
  • thymosin β4
  • α-defensins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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