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Activation of the classical and alternative pathways of complement by Treponema pallidum subsp. pallidum and Treponema vincentii.

By T J Fitzgerald


Both in vivo and in vitro studies have indicated that complement plays an important role in the syphilitic immune responses. Few quantitative data are available concerning activation of the classical pathway by Treponema pallidum subsp. pallidum, and no information is available on treponemal activation of the alternative pathway. Activation of both pathways was compared by using T. pallidum subsp. pallidum and the nonpathogen T. vincentii. With rabbit and human sources of complement, both organisms rapidly activated the classical pathway, as shown by hemolysis of sensitized sheep erythrocytes and by the generation of soluble C4a. With human sources of complement, both organisms also activated the alternative pathway, as shown by hemolysis of rabbit erythrocytes and by the generation of soluble C3a in the presence of magnesium ethylene glycol-bis(beta-aminoethyl ether)-N,N,N',N'-tetraacetic acid (EGTA). During incubation, organisms remained actively mobile and did not lyse, indicating that activation was a function of complement reactivity with the intact outer treponemal surface. In addition, freshly harvested T. pallidum subsp. pallidum immediately activated both pathways of complement; preincubation of organisms did not enhance complement reactivity. T. vincentii was a more potent activator of this pathway. T. pallidum subsp. pallidum contained almost four times as much surface sialic acid as T. vincentii did. When sialic acid was enzymatically removed from T. pallidum subsp. pallidum, enhanced activation of the alternative pathway was detected. It is proposed that T. pallidum subsp. pallidum retards complement-mediated damage by the alternative pathway through surface-associated sialic acid. This may be an important virulence determinant that enables these organisms to readily disseminate through the bloodstream to infect other tissues

Topics: Research Article
Year: 1987
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Provided by: PubMed Central
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