NEW FINDINGS: What is the central question of this study? What are the relationships between physical properties of saliva, protein composition and metabolite composition? What is the main finding and its importance? Salivary citrate, one of the major endogenous metabolites in saliva, increased upon capsaicin stimulation and was associated with improved physical properties measured by extensional rheology. This suggests salivary gland citrate transporters might be a valuable area of future study.
ABSTRACT: Saliva displays viscoelastic properties which enable coating, lubrication and protection of the oral mucosa and hard tissues. Individuals lacking saliva or perceiving oral dryness can manage their symptoms using artificial saliva preparations, but these often fail to mimic the sensation and functionality of natural saliva. It is widely acknowledged that mucins (MUC7 and MUC5B) confer saliva's rheological properties, but artificial saliva containing purified mucins is still often an inadequate substitute. This work aimed to explore salivary components that influence salivary extensional rheology to better understand how natural saliva could be replicated. Saliva was stimulated via control and capsaicin solutions in healthy volunteers. Extensional rheology was analysed using a CaBER-1 (capillary breakup) extensional rheometer. Protein composition, including mucins, was measured by gel-electrophoresis band densitometry and metabolites were measured by 1 H nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Capsaicin stimulation significantly increased capillary breakup time, extensional viscosity and the abundance of most major salivary proteins. Stimulation also increased salivary citrate and choline concentrations. Significant correlations were found between capillary breakup time and amylase (r = 0.67, P < 0.05), statherin (ρ = 0.66, P < 0.05) and citrate (ρ = 0.81, P < 0.01). The relationship between citrate and salivary rheology was subsequently investigated in vitro. These results suggest that citrate and non-mucin proteins are stronger predictors of salivary rheology than the more often studied mucin glycoproteins. Potential mechanisms are discussed and future work in this area could help formulate more effective saliva substitutes, more closely resembling natural saliva.