Abstract: There is strong evidence implicating Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans as the causative agent of localised juvenile periodontitis (LJP), a disease characterised by rapid destruction of the tooth-supporting tissues. This organism possesses a large number of virulence factors with a wide range of activities which enable it to colonise the oral cavity, invade periodontal tissues, evade host defences, initiate connective tissue destruction and interfere with tissue repair. Adhesion to epithelial and tooth surfaces is dependent on the presence of surface proteins and structures such as a microvesicles and fimbriae. Invasion has been demonstrated in vivo and in vitro although the mechanisms involved are poorly understood. The organism has a number of means of evading host defences which include: (i) inhibiting polymorphonuclear leukocyte (PMN) chemotaxis; (ii) killing PMNs and monocytes; (iii) producing immunosuppressive factors; (iv) secreting proteases capable of cleaving IgG; and (v) producing Fc-binding proteins. Surface components of A. actinomycetemcomitans are potent stimulators of bone resorption and can induce the release of a range of cytokines which can initiate tissue destruction. A number of surface components can also inhibit the proliferation of fibroblasts and their production of components of the extracellular matrix. Little is known, however, regarding the way in which these factors operate in vivo to produce the pathological features of the disease.