Public Wiki Catalogs Thousands of Salivary Proteins

Dentistry Today
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research


National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research

To improve the development of new saliva-based diagnostic tests and personalized medicine, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) has supported the development of the Human Salivary Proteome Wiki, the first public platform that catalogs and curates data on each of the thousands of proteins within human saliva.

The wiki provides researchers and clinicians with rich, unbiased evidence from multiple independent studies to help explore the dynamic and complex nature of saliva, the NIDCR said, as well as analytical tools to search for data by tissue type, disease, and more.

“This community-based data and knowledge base will pave the way to harness the full potential of the salivary proteome for diagnosis, risk prediction, and therapy for oral and systemic diseases and increase preparedness for future emerging diseases and pandemics,” said Stefan Ruhl, DDS, PhD, lead investigator, curator of the wiki, and professor of oral biology at the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine.

Saliva facilitates digestion, taste, swallowing, and speech and serves as the first line of defense against pathogens in the mouth, shielding the body from harmful microbes. Its role in immune responses, as well as the ease with which it may be collected, make it a desirable tool in precision medicine and noninvasive diagnostics, the NIDCR said. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been widely used to detect the virus and track the body’s immune response.

But a challenge in saliva’s study is the high level of variability in the thousands of salivary proteins, the NIDCR said. Normal ranges for the composition of saliva then need to be established to define health status, said Ruhl, who in 2020 coauthored research on how saliva is made, pinpointing the origins of proteins in human saliva back to their sources.

“Saliva has become an attractive body fluid for on-site, remote, and real-time monitoring of oral and systemic health. The scientific community needs a saliva-centered information platform that keeps pace with the rapid accumulation of new data and knowledge,” said William Lau, PhD, of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and first author.

“The Human Salivary Proteome Wiki will improve salivary sciences, saliva-based diagnostics, precision medicine and dentistry, and ultimately facilitate personalized treatment for both oral and systemic diseases,” said Preethi Chander, PhD, program director of the NIDCR Salivary Biology and Immunology Program.

Funded by the NIDCR and developed in collaboration with the NIH Center for Information Technology, the Human Salivary Proteome Wiki was released in 2019 as a user-friendly public database to provide rich analytical, curation, and annotation tools for the biomedical research community, the NIDCR said.

The database compiles information and research on the salivary proteome, genome, transcriptome (types and levels of mRNA expressed in salivary gland tissue), and glycome (array of sugars attached to salivary glycoproteins).

Users may submit proposals to add and remove or modify data to an interdisciplinary team of curators who ensure information is accurate and supported by sound scientific evidence. Annotations also are credited to the researchers and clinicians who submit them to the wiki, helping drive references to critical research, the NIDCR said.

The researchers said they also will host a series of activities that bring contributors together to inspire novel ideas and foster cross-discipline collaborations.

The study, “The Human Salivary Proteome Wiki: A Community-Driven Research Platform,” was published by the Journal of Dental Research.

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