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Photo of Watanabe, Keiko

Keiko Watanabe, DDS, MS, PhD

Emeritus Professor , Diplomate, American Board of Periodontology




801 S. Paulina St, IL 60612



Dr. Watanabe is a Professor Emerita in the Department of Periodontics. Dr. Watanabe received both her BS degree in Biological Science and DDS degree from the University of Southern California, a Certificate in Periodontics from the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry, and both her MS degree in Biological Chemistry and a PhD in Molecular Genetics from the University of Illinois at Chicago. During her research career, Dr. Watanabe’s group identified the following: 1) periodontitis induces insulin resistance and glucose intolerance—hallmarks of prediabetes, 2) periodontitis accelerates the development of diabetes in rodents with a certain mutation that makes animals prone to develop diabetes, 3) TLR4 functions in mediating the development of glucose intolerance and insulin resistance in liver Kupffer cells, 4) SerpinE1 mediates periodontal pathogen induced insulin secretion in pancreatic beta cells, 5) oral application of a periodontal pathogen Porphyromonas gingivalis (Pg) upregulates SerpinE1 expression and alters pancreatic islet architecture, 6) Pg/gingipain translocates to the brain and resides inside brain cells, 7) Oral application of Pg results in neuropathology such as formation of amyloid plaques and tangle-like structures that are consistent with Alzheimer’s Disease pathology. 8) Pg/gingipain is localized peri- and intra-nuclearly in β-cells in humans.

Selected Publications

Ilievski V, Toth PT, Valyi-Nagy K, Valyi-Nagy T, Green SJ, Marattil RS, Aljewari HW, Wicksteed B, O’Brien-Simpson NM, Reynolds EC, Layden BT, Unterman TG, Watanabe K. Identification of a periodontal pathogen and bihormonal cells in pancreatic islets of humans and a mouse model of periodontitis. Sci Rep 2020; 10: 9976.

Ilievski V, Zuchowska PK, Green SJ, Toth PT, Ragozzino ME, Le K, Aljewari HW, O’Brien-Simpson NM, Reynolds EC, Watanabe K. Chronic oral application of a periodontal pathogen results in brain inflammation, neurodegeneration and amyloid beta production in wild type mice. Plos One 2018;13: e0204941.

Ilievski V, Suleiman-Ata S, Bauer BA, Toth PT, Olson ST, Unterman TG, Watanabe K. Oral application of a periodontal pathogen impacts SerpinE1 expression and pancreatic islet architecture in prediabetes. J Periodontal Res 2017; 52: 1032-1041.

Ilievski V, Kinchen JM, Prabhu R, Rim F, Leoni L, Unterman T, Watanabe K. Experimental periodontitis results in prediabetes and metabolic alterations in brain, liver and heart: Global untargeted metabolomic analyses. J Oral Biol (Northborough). 2016; 3(1). PMID: 27390783

Ilievski V, Cho Y, Katwala P, Rodriguez H, Tulowiecka M, Kurian D, Leoni L, Christman JW, Unterman TG, Watanabe K. TLR4 expression by liver resident cells mediates the development of glucose intolerance and insulin resistance in experimental periodontitis. PloS One, 2015 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0136502.

Bhat UB, Watanabe K. Serpine1 mediates Porphyromonas gingivalis induced insulin secretion in the pancreatic beta cell line MIN6. J Oral Biol; April 2015;2(1).

Bozkurt A, Kurtis MB, Tuter G, Serdar M, Watanabe K, Karakis S.  Evaluation of clinical parameters and crevicular fluid TNFa and IL1β levels around dental implants in patients with Type 2 diabetes mellitus. Int J Oral Maxillofac Implants 2015; 30: 1119-1127.

Cho YD, Watanabe K.  Periodontitis and metabolic syndrome: A qualitative critical review of the association between the two diseases.  Arch Oral Biol 2014; 59: 855-870.

Bhat UG, Ilievski V, Unterman TG, Watanabe K.  Porphyromonas gingivalis lipopolysaccharide (LPS) upregulates insulin secretion from pancreatic beta cell line MIN6. J Periodontol 2014; 85: 1629-1636.

Watanabe K, Iizuka T, Adeleki A, Pham L, Shlimon AE, Yasin M, Horvath P, Unterman TG. Involvement of Toll-like receptor 4 in alveolar bone loss and glucose homeostasis in experimental periodontitis.  J Periodontal Res 2011; 46: 21-30.


  • University of Southern California, BS (Biological Science), 1976
  • University of Southern California, DDS, 1983
  • University of Illinois at Chicago, Certificate in Periodontics, 1986
  • University of Illinois at Chicago, MS (Biological Chemistry), 1987
  • University of Illinois at Chicago, PhD (Molecular Genetics), 2000

Licensures and Certifications

Illinois, Dental Practice License
Illinois, Specialty License
Diplomate, American Board of Periodontology and Dental Implant Surgery Dentistry

Professional Memberships

American Board of Periodontology