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Salivary Biology and Immunology Program

Contact: Dr. Preethi Chander 

The Salivary Biology and Dysfunction Program supports extramural basic and translational research on saliva and salivary gland biology and immune aspects of oral diseases such as caries and periodontal diseases.

The program is composed of the following major areas of research:

  • Saliva and salivary gland biology
  • Sjögren's syndrome
  • Host responses to microbes
  • Immunology of biofilms
  • Oral inflammation 
  • Systemic diseases 
  • Immunotherapy 
  • Immunopathologies
  • Host susceptibility to infection 

In addition, this program encourages research that is responsive to the NIH Common Fund Initiatives.

Saliva and Salivary Gland Physiology

NIDCR encourages research on the composition of saliva and salivary gland physiology.  We welcome integrative approaches to basic studies and translational research in salivary gland biology.  Areas of interest include but are not limited to: 

  • Salivary gland morphogenesis and structure
  • Salivary gland stem cells, their origins, molecular signatures and differentiation potentials
  • Salivary protein and glycoprotein synthesis, modification, secretion and functions
  • Fluid and electrolyte transport and secretion
  • Salivary gland as a molecular portal for detecting and improving systemic health
  • Salivary biomarkers and health surveillance
  • Age-related, disease-related, drug-induced and radiation-induced changes in salivary gland function
  • Pharmacogenetics of drug-induced xerostomia
  • Therapeutic approaches to salivary gland dysfunction
  • Repair and regeneration
  • Systems approach to salivary and exocrine gland biology

Host Response to Microbes

An understanding of the host recognition of and response to oral microbes is essential for development of immunotherapies for oral infectious diseases.  These include:

  • Antibody- and cell-mediated responses
  • Innate activities of host recognition to oral microbes, cytokines, chemokines, neutrophil and macrophage antimicrobial activities
  • Antimicrobial factors present in saliva and on the mucosa

Elucidation of the biological events associated with inflammation, including detailed analyses of the cytokines, chemokines and growth factors involved in these processes, is expected to lead to new therapies for oral infectious diseases.

Immunology of Biofilms

Research in this area includes:

  • The role of innate and host immune responses
  • Mechanisms of biofilm formation
  • Resistance of biofilms to antimicrobial agents
  • Development of strategies for the immunological prevention and treatment of microbial biofilm-associated oral diseases

Oral Inflammation

An understanding at the cellular and molecular levels of the pathogenesis of oral inflammation is essential for the development of therapeutic strategies. Immune responses include humoral and cell-mediated responses as well as innate and adaptive activities of initiation, triggering events and effector functions. In addition, the program supports research on host genetic factors and determinants that are involved in the pathogenesis and resolution of inflammation.

Systemic Diseases

Recent studies suggest an association between periodontal disease and the likelihood of delivering preterm, low-birth weight babies, developing cardiovascular disease, and having difficulty controlling blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.  Some studies have also linked periodontal disease to respiratory infection in people with pulmonary problems.  This program supports research on the association of oral diseases with systemic diseases.


The program supports research on the development of vaccines, adjuvants and biological modifiers that enhance and regulate the immune response to etiological agents.  Vaccines to boost acquired as well as innate immunity to oral pathogens are important to the program.  Similarly, the program also supports research on ways to suppress the destructive immune responses associated with host inflammatory reactions, as well as autoimmune and other immunopathogenic diseases.


Research on oral autoimmune conditions, such as pemphigus and Sjögren's syndrome, is an important part of the program. Such autoimmune diseases compromise the function of the mouth and can lead to increased dental caries, candidiasis and other oral infections. A goal of the program is to elucidate the central immunological, cellular, and genetic factors associated with autoimmunity and immunopathologies.

Host Susceptibility to Infections

This program supports research on understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in the relationship between microbial pathogenesis and host susceptibility to infection.  In addition, the program supports research on host genetic determinants and the biological basis of susceptibility to infection.

Additional Information

For further information about the NIDCR Salivary Biology and Immunology Program, please contact:

Preethi Chander, Ph.D.
Program Director, Salivary Biology and Immunology Program
Integrative Biology and Infectious Diseases Branch
Division of Extramural Research
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
6701 Democracy Blvd., Rm. 605
Bethesda, MD 20892-4878
(20817 for express deliveries)
Telephone: 301-827-4620



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This page last updated: January 24, 2017