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Consortium Publishes Salivary Proteome

March 27, 2008 

In the beginning, scientists believed salivary proteins came in two varieties:  amylases and mucins.  But in the 1950s, with the arrival of more powerful, post-World War II research techniques, scientists discovered other salivary proteins mixed in with the amylases and mucins.  “You began to see that saliva was not only the initiator of the digestive pathways, but a good part of its role was protective in nature,” recalled Dr. Irwin Mandel, a major figure in the field during this era at Columbia University.  “You needed to determine and recognize how these proteins actually protected the oral tissues and their anti-bacterial role.  It became a much broader field.” 

Now, as published online on March 24 in the Journal of Proteome Research, the job of cataloguing salivary proteins that Mandel and other groups began in the 1950s has been completed.  A consortium of NIDCR-supported research groups has compiled the first comprehensive list of proteins secreted by the major salivary glands (parotid, submandibular, and sublingual).  The consortium identified 1,166 proteins in saliva samples collected from 23 adult volunteers.  Of these proteins, 657 are also found in blood plasma and 259 are present in tears.  The completion of the salivary proteome will help to establish saliva as a scientifically validated diagnostic fluid to detect early signs of disease throughout the body.   The consortium included teams at The Scripps Research Institute, the University of Southern California, the University of California at San Francisco, and University of Rochester.

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This page last updated: April 01, 2014