Determining bacterial and host contributions to the human salivary metabolome

Alexander Gardner, Harold G. Parkes, Po Wah So (Lead / Corresponding author), Guy H. Carpenter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: Salivary metabolomics is rapidly advancing. Aim and methods: To determine the extent to which salivary metabolites reflects host or microbial metabolic activity whole-mouth saliva (WMS), parotid saliva (PS) and plasma collected contemporaneously from healthy volunteers were analysed by 1H-NMR spectroscopy. Spectra underwent principal component analysis and k-means cluster analysis and metabolite quantification. WMS samples were cultured on both sucrose and peptide-enriched media. Correlation between metabolite concentration and bacterial load was assessed.

Results: WMS contained abundant short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which were minimal in PS and plasma. WMS spectral exhibited greater inter-individual variation than those of PS or plasma (6.7 and 3.6 fold, respectively), likely reflecting diversity of microbial metabolomes. WMS bacterial load correlated strongly with SCFA levels. Additional WMS metabolites including amines, amino acids and organic acids were positively correlated with bacterial load. Lactate, urea and citrate appeared to enter WMS via PS and the circulation. Urea correlated inversely with WMS bacterial load.

Conclusions: Oral microbiota contribute significantly to the WMS metabolome. Several WMS metabolites (lactate, urea and citrate) are derived from the host circulation. WMS may be particularly useful to aid diagnosis of conditions reflective of dysbiosis. WMS could also complement other gastrointestinal fluids in future metabolomic studies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1617014
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Oral Microbiology
Issue number1
Early online date4 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • metabolomics
  • NMR spectroscopy
  • oral microbiome
  • saliva

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dentistry (miscellaneous)
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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