• Chlamydia pneumoniae ;
  • Chlamydia trachomatis ;
  • Pathogen;
  • Adhesin;
  • Pmp protein family;
  • Virulence


The bacterial pathogens Chlamydia trachomatis and C. pneumoniae are obligate intracellular parasites, cause a number of serious diseases, and can infect various cell types in humans. Chlamydial infections are probably initiated by binding of the bacterial outer membrane protein OmcB to host cell glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). Here, we show that all nine members of the polymorphic membrane protein (Pmp) family of C. trachomatis mediate adhesion to human epithelial and endothelial cells. Importantly, exposure of infectious particles to soluble recombinant Pmps blocks subsequent infection, thus implicating an important function of the entire protein family in the infection process. Analogous experiments with pairs of recombinant Pmps or a combination of Pmp and OmcB revealed that all Pmps probably act in an adhesion pathway that is distinct from the OmcB-GAG pathway. Finally, we provide evidence that the Pmps of C. trachomatis and C. pneumoniae exhibit species and tissue specificity. These findings argue for the involvement of C. trachomatis Pmps in the initial phase of infection and suggest that they may interact with a receptor other than the epidermal growth factor receptor recently identified for their counterparts in C. pneumoniae.