SUMMARY: Surface charge and hydrophobicity of have been investigated in relation to phagocytosis by human polymorphonuclear leucocytes (PMNs) . The treponemal surface was relatively hydrophobic and negatively charged but despite these properties, phagocytosis, as assessed by luminol-enhanced chemiluminescence, was minimal in the absence of serum. Preopsonization of bacteria with serum reduced surface hydrophobicity but promoted phagocytosis, suggesting that specific immune mechanisms may be more important in controlling phagocytosis of than non-specific surface properties. evoked a much weaker chemiluminescence response from PMNs than the non-pathogenic treponeme biotype Reiterii even though similar numbers of bacteria were phagocytosed, suggesting differences in the reactivity of the surface components of the two organisms toward PMNs. The reactivity of towards PMNs could be increased by removal of the bacterial outer membrane by Triton X-100 treatment. These observations reinforce the suggestion that the outer surface of is inherently inert.


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