Neisseria meningitidis (Nm) isolates from disease or during carriage express, on their outer membranes, one or more of a family of closely related proteins designated Opa proteins. In this study, we have examined the potential rotes of Nm Opa proteins in bacterial attachment and invasion of endothelial as well as epithelial cells and compared the influence of Opa proteins with that of Ope protein, which has been previously shown to increase bacterial interactions with eukaryotic cells. Several variants expressing different Opa proteins (A, B, D) or Opc were selected from a culture of capsule-deficient non-piliated bacteria of strain C751. Although the Opa proteins increased bacterial attachment and invasion of endothelial cells, Opc was the most effective protein in increasing bacterial interactions with these cells. In contrast, attachment to several human epithelial cells was facilitated at least as much by OpaB as Opc protein. OpaA was largely without effect whereas OpaD conferred intermediate attachment. OpaB also increased invasion of epithelial cells; more bacteria were internalized by Chang conjunctival cells compared with Hep-2 larynx carcinoma or A549 lung carcinoma cells. Monoclonal antibody reacting with OpaB inhibited bacterial interactions with the host cells. Opa-mediated interactions were also eliminated or significantly reduced in variants expressing capsule or those with sialylated lipopolysaccharide. These data are consistent with the notion that environmental factors controlling capsule and lipopolysaccharide phenotype may modulate bacterial interactions mediated by these OM proteins. In permissive microenvironments, some Opa proteins may be important in bacterial colonization and translocation in addition to Opc. The data also support the notion that Nm Opa may confer tissue tropism.