Enhanced levels of attachment of fibronectin-primed Treponema pallidum to extracellular matrix

D. D. Thomas, J. B. Baseman, J. F. Alderete

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Freshly extracted Treponema pallidum organisms treated with exogenous human fibronectin (Fn) (Fn-primed treponemes) showed a 6- to 15-fold increased level of attachment to Fn-coated cover slips and to extracellular matrix (ECM) when compared with unprimed treponemes. Treponemes primed with collagen or laminin showed no similar enhanced binding to immobilized Fn or ECM. Preexposure of immobilized Fn and ECM to anti-Fn serum but not to anti-collagen or anti-laminin serum prevented treponemal adherence. Also, the presence of proteoglycanlike molecules such as dextran sulfate or heparan sulfate inhibited Fn-primed treponemal attachment to Fn or ECM. In contrast Fn-primed treponemes did not exhibit elevated levels of attachment to eucaryotic cell monolayers. To understand the increased tropism of Fn-primed T. pallidum organisms for Fn and ECM-like surfaces, we radiolabeled freshly extracted treponemes with [35S]methionine and examined them for the presence of surface immunoreactive Fn. Magnetic protAspheres and glass beads coated with monospecific anti-Fn serum bound only 20 to 30% of radiolabeled treponemes. Nonadherent treponemes failed to bind to gelatin-agarose, further confirming the absence of surface Fn or Fn-like material. Fn-free organisms, however, did attach to Fn-coated cover slips and to cell monolayers like treponemes of the original population. Incubation of Fn-free treponemes with human Fn resulted in almost total binding of organisms to anti-Fn antibody on glass beads and also produced increased attachment to Fn-coated cover slips and ECM. These results suggest that enhanced interactions between T. pallidum and the host are dependent on the presence of Fn on syphilis spirochetes and the specific location and orientation in Fn in vivo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)736-741
Number of pages6
JournalInfection and immunity
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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