After injury to periodontal tissues, a sequentially phased healing response is initiated that enables wound closure and partial restoration of tissue structure and function. Wound closure in periodontal tissues involves the tightly regulated coordination of resident cells in epithelial and connective tissue compartments. Multiple cell populations in these compartments synergize their metabolic activities to reestablish a mucosal seal that involves the underlying periodontal connective tissues and the attachment of these tissues to the tooth surface. The formation of an impermeable seal around the circumference of the tooth is of particular significance in oral health since colonization of tooth surfaces by pathogenic biofilms promotes inflammation, which can contribute to periodontal tissue degradation and tooth loss. The reformation of periodontal tissue structures in the healing response centrally involves fibroblasts, which synthesize and organize the collagen fibers that link alveolar bone and gingiva to the cementum covering the tooth root. The synthesis and remodeling of nascent collagen matrices are of fundamental importance for the reestablishment of a functional periodontium and are mediated by diverse, multi-functional fibroblast populations that reside within the connective tissues of gingiva and periodontal ligament. Notably, after gingival wounding, a fibroblast sub-type (myofibroblast) arises, which is centrally involved in collagen synthesis and fibrillar remodeling. While myofibroblasts are not usually seen in healthy, mature connective tissues, their formation is enhanced by wound-healing cytokines. The formation of myofibroblasts is also modulated by the stiffness of the extracellular matrix, which is mechanosensed by resident precursor cells in the gingival connective tissue microenvironment. Here, we consider the cellular origins and the factors that control the differentiation and matrix remodeling functions of periodontal fibroblasts. An improved understanding of the regulation and function of periodontal fibroblasts will be critical for the development of new therapies to optimize the restoration of periodontal structure and function after wounding.
Front Physiol. 2019 Apr 24;10:270. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2019.00270. eCollection 2019.