Periodontitis (PD) is a multifaceted inflammatory disease connected to bacterial infection that results in the destruction of tooth supporting structures and eventually tooth loss. Given their involvement in infection and inflammation, both metallothionein (MT) and zinc (Zn) might play vital roles in the development and progression of PD. More specifically, both MT and Zn are heavily involved in regulating immune functions, controlling bacterial infection, balancing inflammatory responses, and reducing oxidative stress, all of which are associated with the pathogenesis of PD.


This review paper will explore the physiological functions of MT and Zn and hypothesise how dysregulation could negatively affect periodontal health, leading to PD.


Bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) derived from periodontal pathogens, namely P. gingivalis initiates the acute phase response, thus upregulating the expression of MT which leads to the subsequent deficiency of Zn, a hallmark of periodontal disease. This deficiency leads to ineffective NETosis, increases the permeability of the gingival epithelium, and disrupts the humoral immune response, collectively contributing to PD. In addition, the presence of LPS in Zn deficient conditions favours M1 macrophage polarisation and maturation of dendritic cells, and also inhibits the anti-inflammatory activity of regulatory T cells. Collectively, these observations could theoretically give rise to the chronic inflammation seen in PD.


A disrupted MT and Zn homeostasis is expected to exert an adverse impact on periodontal health and contribute to the development and progression of PD.