Differential Attachment of Oral Treponemes to Monolayers of Epithelial Cells

Nelson Carranza, George R. Riviere, Kathryn S. Smith, Donald F. Adams, Tom Maier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


This in vitro study describes the attachment properties of several oral treponemes to monolayers of epithelial cells and the effect of epithelial cell confluence on treponeme attachment. Four serotypes of Treponema denticola, Treponema scoliodontum, three subspecies of Treponema socranskii, and Treponema vincentii were tested with monolayers of epithelial cells of human and canine origin. Attachment of oral treponemes were compared to attachment by T. pallidum subsp. pallidum, and by the nonpathogen Treponema phagedenis. Results indicated that different serotypes of T. denticola had similar abilities to attach to epithelial cells. However, subspecies of T. socranskii differed in their ability to attach to epithelial cells. The proportion of epithelial cells susceptible to attachment by oral spirochetes was strongly related to the confluence level of the monolayer. In contrast, T. pallidum attached equally well to both epithelial cell lines at all confluence levels. T. phagedenis attached to <1% of all epithelial cells. In general, attachment of oral treponemes to canine cells was lower than to human cells, suggesting species-specificity for adherence. Attachment of oral treponemes to epithelial cells may promote colonization of the periodontal pocket, as well as retention of treponeme colonies within plaque. The preference of oral treponemes to attach to cells of low confluence fields may translate in vivo to an increased ability to attach to cells which are actively dividing. Such cells are found in areas of repair, a common status within inflamed periodontal pockets. Furthermore, attachment of oral treponemes to epithelial cell barriers may promote or potentiate cytopathic processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1010-1018
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of periodontology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Bacterial attachment
  • Epithelial cells
  • Treponema denticola
  • Treponema pallidum
  • Treponema phagedenis
  • Treponema scoliodontum
  • Treponema socranskii
  • Treponema vincentii

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Periodontics


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