Massimo Costalonga PhD, DMD



Office Phone
Office Address

18-226 Moos Tower
515 Delaware St. SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States


Professor, Department of Developmental and Surgical Sciences


PhD, University of Minnesota School of Dentistry (Oral Biology), 1999
DMD, Universita' degli Studi di Milano, Italy (Dentistry), 1991;
Certificate, University of Minnesota School of Dentistry (Periodontology), 1998;
Postdoctoral Training, University of Minnesota Medical School (Clinical Microbiology and Molecular Biology), 2000;
Postdoctoral Training, University of Minnesota Medical School (Mucosal Immunology), 2003

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Dr. Costalonga is an Professor in Periodontology and Oral Biology at our institution. His research interest in the basic sciences is centered in the in the area of mucosal immunology and animal models of periodontitis. Dr. Costalonga is funded by the National Institute of Health. His team studies the contribution of mucosal intraepithelial Langerhans cells and subepithelial dendritic cells to the development of the T cell-mediated adaptive immune response. Specifically, they study the immune plasticity of Th17 and Treg cells after chronic oral colonization with a keystone pathogen (Porphyromonas gingivalis) in a murine model of periodontitis. Dr. Costalonga has served on the Oral, Dental and Craniofacial Sciences Study Section at the NIH as an ad hoc member for mucosal immunology.

Dr. Costalonga’s research interest in the clinical sciences focuses on the metabolomics of periodontitis and peri-implantitis. An ongoing collaboration with the Department of Chemistry aims at predicting future periodontal disease progression through the analysis of simple metabolites in the gingival crevicular fluid of healthy and diseased patient. Dr. Costalonga is currently the director of the Advanced Education Program in Periodontology.


Research Summary/Interests

The research area of my team focuses on the host-microbe interaction at the mucosal interface. Our long-range goal is to define the immune cellular phenotype that makes individuals susceptible to periodontal destruction. My laboratory has expertise in murine models of periodontal disease and has experience in tracking antigen-specific T cells and the innate immune response in human and in murine models of disease. We are the only group in the world that has engineered an I-Ab tetramer displaying virulence factors-peptides of Porphyromonas gingivalis. With this reagent and we have a unique chance to assess the contribution that Langerhans cells and CD103+ dendritic cells have on the plasticity of P. gingivalis-specific Th and Treg cells in vivo with mice chronically colonized with P. gingivalis. With access to unique reagents and expertise on microsurgery and cell sorting we have the opportunity measure CD4+ T cell plasticity in gingiva and buccal mucosa in vivo. As a periodontist my expertise also lays on microsurgery/microdissection techniques, guided bone regeneration, 3D rendering and digital planning for rehabilitation of complex implant cases. Currently I am also conducting clinical research on the metabolomics of periodontitis and peri-implantitis using proton-NMR spectroscopy and mass spectrometry.


Selected peer-reviewed publications

  • Rashidi, A., Ebadi, M., Weisdorf, D. J., Costalonga, M., & Staley, C. (2021). No evidence for colonization of oral bacteria in the distal gut in healthy adults. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118(42), e2114152118. doi:10.1073/pnas.2114152118
  • Johnstone KF, Wei Y, Bittner-Eddy PD, Vreeman GW, Stone IA, Clayton JB, Reilly CS, Walbon TB, Wright EN, Hoops SL, Boyle WS, Costalonga M, Herzberg MC. Calprotectin (S100A8/A9) Is an Innate Immune Effector in Experimental Periodontitis. Infect Immun. 2021 Sep 16;89(10):e0012221. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00122-21. Epub 2021 Jun 7. PMID: 34097505; PMCID: PMC8445179.
  • Bittner-Eddy P.D., Fischer, L.A., Costalonga, M. (2020). Transient Expression of IL-17A in Foxp3 Fate-Tracked Cells in Porphyromonas gingivalis-Mediated Oral Dysbiosis. Front Immunol (11:677). doi:10.3389/fimmu.2020.00677
  • Bittner-Eddy, P.D., Fischer, L.A., Costalonga, M. (2019) Cre-loxP Reporter Mouse Reveals Stochastic Activity of the Foxp3 Promoter. Front Immunol. (10:2228). doi:10.3389/fimmu.2019.02228
  • Fischer, L.A., Bittner-Eddy, P.D., Costalonga, M. (2019) Fetal Weight Outcomes in C57BL/6J and C57BL/6NCrl Mice after Oral Colonization with Porphyromonas gingivalisInfect Immun. (87(10):e00280-19) doi:10.1128/IAI.00280-19
  • Fischer, L.A., Demerath, E., Bittner-Eddy, P., Costalonga, M. (2019) Placental colonization with periodontal pathogens: the potential missing link. Am J Obstet Gynecol (221(5):pp.383-392.e3) doi:10.1016/j.ajog.2019.04.029
  • Chatzopoulos, G.S., Mansky, K.C., Lunos, S., Costalonga, M., Wolff, L.F. (2019) Sclerostin and WNT-5a gingival protein levels in chronic periodontitis and health. J Periodontal Res. doi: 10.1111/jre.12659 PMID: 30982988 
  • Bittner-Eddy PD, Fischer LA, Tu AA, Allman DA and Costalonga M (2017). Discriminating between Interstitial and Circulating Leukocytes in Tissues of the Murine Oral Mucosa Avoiding Nasal-Associated Lymphoid Tissue Contamination. Front. Immunol. 8:1398. DOI: 10.3389/fimmu.2017.01398
  • Meyle J, Dommisch H, Groeger S, Giacaman RA, Costalonga M, Herzberg M. The innate host response in caries and periodontitis. J Clin Periodontol. 2017 Dec;44(12):1215-1225. PMID: 28727164
  • Bittner-Eddy PD, Fischer LA, Kaplan DH, Thieu K, Costalonga M. Mucosal Langerhans Cells Promote Differentiation of Th17 Cells in a Murine Model of Periodontitis but Are Not Required for Porphyromonas gingivalis-Driven Alveolar Bone Destruction. 
  • J Immunol. 2016 Aug 15;197(4):1435-46. Epub 2016 Jul 11. PMID: 27402698
  • Costalonga M, Herzberg MC. The oral microbiome and the immunobiology of periodontal disease and caries. Immunol Lett. 2014 Dec;162(2 Pt A):22-38. Epub 2014 Nov 8. PMID: 25447398
  • Bittner-Eddy P, Fischer L, Jenkins MK, Costalonga M. Identification of gingipain-specific I-Ab-restricted CD4+ T cells following mucosal colonization with Porphyromonas gingivalis in C57BL/6 mice. Mol Oral Microbiol. 2013 Dec;28(6):452-66. Epub 2013 Aug 14. PMID: 23945018.
  • Costalonga M, Cleary PP, Zhao Z, Fischer L. Intranasal bacteria induce Th1 but not Treg or Th2. Mucosal Immunology 2009 Jan;2(1):85-95. Epub 2008 Oct 8. PMID: 19079337
  • Costalonga M, Batas L, Reich BJ. Effects of TLR-4 in Porphyromonas gingivalis-induced bone loss in mice. Journal of Periodontal Research 2009 Aug;44(4):537-42. 
  • Costalonga M, Zell T. Lipopolysaccharide enhances in vivo IL-2 production and proliferation by naïve antigen-specific CD4 T cells via a TLR4-dependent mechanism. Immunology. 2007 Sep;122(1):124-30
  • Medaglini D, Ciabattini A, Cuppone AM, Costa C, Ricci S, Costalonga M, Pozzi G. In vivo activation of naive CD4+ T cells in nasal mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue following intranasal immunization with recombinant Streptococcus gordonii. Infection and Immunity. 2006 May;74(5):2760-6.
  • Park HS, Costalonga M, Reinhardt RL, Dombek PE, Jenkins MK, Cleary PP. Primary induction of CD4 T cell responses in nasal associated lymphoid tissue during group A streptococcal infection. Eur. J Immunol. 2004 Oct;34(10):2843. 
  • Costalonga M, J. S. Hodges, Herzberg MC. Streptococcus sanguis Modulates Transmucosally Type II Collagen-induced Arthritis in DBA/1J Mice. The Journal of Immunology 2002 Aug 15;169(4):2189-95
  • McSorley SJ, Asch S, Costalonga M, Reinhardt RL, Jenkins MK. Tracking Salmonella-specific CD4 T cells in vivo reveals a local mucosal response to systemic infection. Immunity 2002 Mar;16(3):365-77.
  • Costalonga M. “Streptococcus sanguis modulates autoimmune arthritis in mice.” Doctor of Philosophy Thesis, Field: Oral Biology - University of Minnesota, Minneapolis MN
  • Costalonga M. "HELP - Human Envelope-Like Protein: Characterization of a putative secondary receptor for HIV-1". Doctor of Medical Dentistry Thesis, Field: Immunology - University of Milano, Italy

Book Chapters

  • Susan Camp, Yu Lei, Massimo Costalonga, Yongshu Zhang, Alexandre Zaia, Reka Vajna, Karen F. Ross, and Mark C. Herzberg. Oral Microbiology and Immunology 2nd Edition. Chapter 16: Systemic Diseases and the Oral Microbiota. ASM Press
  • Nobbs A, Zhang Y, Costalonga M, and Herzberg MC. Oral streptococci: commensals and opportunistic pathogens. Second edition. Horizon Scientific Press - Rowan House, 28 Queens Road, Hethersett, Norwich, NR9 3DB, UK.
  • Schachtele CF, Nobbs A, Zhang Y, Costalonga M, and Herzberg MC. Oral streptococci: commensals and opportunistic pathogens. Horizon Scientific Press - Rowan House, 28 Queens Road, Hethersett, Norwich, NR9 3DB, UK.