Objective: To quantitatively measure VIP levels and to qualitatively study the distribution of VIP fibres and demonstrate the presence of the VPAC1 receptor in human dental pulp from carious and non-carious adult human teeth. Design: Dental pulp samples were collected from non-carious, moderately carious and grossly carious adult human teeth. VIP levels were determined using radioimmunoassay. The distribution of VIP fibres was studied using immunohistochemistry. The VPAC1 receptor protein expression was determined by Western blotting. Results: VIP levels were found to be significantly elevated in the dental pulp of moderately carious compared with non-carious (p = 0.0032) or grossly carious teeth (p = 0.0029). The distribution of VIP fibres was similar in non-carious and carious teeth, except that nerve bundles appeared thicker in the pulp samples from carious compared with non-carious teeth. Western blotting indicated that the VPAC1 receptor proteins were detected in similar levels in pooled dental pulp samples from both carious and non-carious teeth. Conclusion: It is concluded that quantitative changes in the levels of VIP in human dental pulp during the caries process and the expression of VPAC1 receptor proteins in membrane extracts from carious and non-carious teeth suggests a role for VIP in modulating pulpal health and disease. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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