The aim of this study was to characterize some phenotypic expressions of fibroblasts from the human oral mucosa. Gingival and lower forearm fibroblasts from young (20-30 years) and elderly (> 60 years) subjects, were analyzed. Gingival fibroblasts were taken from donors with (P) and without (NP) periodontal disease, while skin biopsies were taken from healthy subjects. Cell proliferation was assessed by evaluating the cell multiplication coefficient (C.M.C.). The proliferation potential of gingival fibroblasts from elderly individuals with and without periodontopathy did not differ from that of young subjects in the same condition but differed significantly in the skin samples. Enzyme neutral endopeptidase (EC 126.96.36.199) (NEP) activity, studied as a possible marker of cell ageing, showed an age-related increase in human skin fibroblasts but not consistently in gingival fibroblasts from individuals with or without periodontal disease. Cell area and substrate adhesion were evaluated by morphometric analysis. There were no significant differences between elderly P and NP subjects, while significant differences were observed between young and elderly P subjects. In conclusion, proliferative capacity and NEP activity in gingival fibroblasts did not appear to be age-related, probably because their microenvironment is continually moistened by saliva,which continues to contain growth factors, notably EGF, even into senescence. Tissue reaction and repair are important clinical and therapeutic implications.
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