Food Science and Technology Department


Document Type


Date of this Version



Published in Periodontology 2000, vol 42 (2006), pp 88–113.



Copyright © 2006 Anne C. R. Tanner & Jacques Izard; journal compilation © 2006 Blackwell Munksgaard. Used by permission.


Several questions need to be addressed to evaluate whether Tannerella forsythia is to be considered a periodontal pathogen. T. forsythia has been detected in periodontal health and disease, so could it be a pathogen? The species was not detected in many studies despite finding other putative pathogens, so could it be important in pathogenicity? The challenges of working with T. forsythia include its fastidious and anaerobic growth requirements for cultural detection. Thus, studies associating T. forsythia with periodontal and other oral infections have used noncultural approaches (immunoassays and DNA-based assays) in addition to cultural approaches. We feel the timing of this review represents an interesting transition period in our understanding of the relationships of species with infection. Information from the recently released full genome sequence data of T. forsythia will provide new approaches and tools that can be directed to assess pathogenicity. Furthermore, molecular assessment of gene expression will provide a new understanding of the pathogenical potential of the species, and its effect on the host.

T. forsythia, was described in reviews focusing on periodontal pathogens associated with herpesvirus detection (200), species for which genome projects were underway (41), members of polybacterial periodontal pathogenic consortium (91), and participants in periodontal microbial ecology (202). We will describe the history, taxonomy, and characteristics of T. forsythia, and related species or phylotypes in the genus Tannerella. To assess the pathogenic potential of T. forsythia, we first describe species associations with periodontal and other infections, including animal models, as has been the traditional approach arising from Koch’s postulates (203). Criteria for pathogenicity were expanded to incorporate sequence- derived information (58), and again more recently to include molecular signatures of pathogens and disease (170). We used sequence and genome-derived information, in addition to biofilm, pathogenic mediators, and host responses, to further explore the pathogenic potential of T. forsythia.