The cutaneous response in humans to Treponema pallidum lipoprotein analogues involves cellular elements of both innate and adaptive immunity

T. J. Sellati, S. L. Waldrop, J. C. Salazar, P. R. Bergstresser, L. J. Picker, J. D. Radolf

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40 Scopus citations


To extend prior studies implicating treponemal lipoproteins as major proinflammatory agonists of syphilitic infection, we examined the responses induced by intradermal injection of human subjects with synthetic lipoprotein analogues (lipopeptides) corresponding to the N termini of the 17- and 47-kDa lipoproteins of Treponema pallidum. Responses were assessed visually and by flow cytometric analysis of dermal leukocyte populations within fluids aspirated from suction blisters raised over the injection sites. Lipopeptides elicited dose-dependent increases in erythema/induration and cellular infiltrates. Compared with peripheral blood, blister fluids were highly enriched for monocytes/macrophages, cutaneous lymphocyte Ag-positive memory T cells, and dendritic cells. PB and blister fluids contained highly similar ratios of CD123-/CD11c+ (DC1) and CD123+/CD11c- (DC2) dendritic cells. Staining for maturation/differentiation markers (CD83, CD1a) and costimulatory molecules (CD80/CD86) revealed that blister fluid DC1, but not DC2, cells were more developmentally advanced than their peripheral blood counterparts. Of particular relevance to the ability of syphilitic lesions to facilitate the transmission of M-tropic strains of HIV-1 was a marked enhancement of CCR5 positivity among mononuclear cells in the blister fluids. Treponemal lipopeptides have the capacity to induce an inflammatory milieu reminiscent of that found in early syphilis lesions. In contrast with in vitro studies, which have focused upon the ability of these agonists to stimulate isolated innate immune effector cells, in this study we show that in a complex tissue environment these molecules have the capacity to recruit cellular elements representing the adaptive as well as the innate arm of the cellular immune response.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4131-4140
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 15 2001


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology

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