Perivasculitis and endothelial cell abnormalities are prominent histopathologic features of syphilis. Various cutaneous lesions are the main clinical features of syphilis. We examined whether Treponema pallidum 47 kDa antigen regulates the expression of cell adhesion molecules on human dermal microvascular endothelial cells (HDMEC) and the regulation of T-lymphocytes binding to HDMEC. Using immunofluorescence flow cytometry and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), we demonstrated that T. pallidum upregulated the expression of adhesion molecules, including intercellular adhesion molecule 1 (ICAM-1), vascular cell adhesion molecule 1 (VCAM-1) and E-selectin. The 47 kDa antigen of T. pallidum also activated endothelium as measured by the upregulation of the expression of adhesion molecules on HDMEC, and it also promoted an increased adherence of T-lymphocytes to HDMEC. The expressions of ICAM-1 and VCAM-1 on HDMEC and the adherence of T-lymphocytes to HDMEC were inhibited by treatment with anti-TNF-α antibody or anti-IL-1 α antibody. These results show that T. pallidum or T. pallidum-specific 47 kDa antigen are capable of stimulating HDMEC to increase the expression of ICAM-1, VCAM-1 and E-selectin and thereby, promote the adherence of T-lymphocytes. The whole process may play an important role in the immunopathogenesis of syphilis and it is likely that TNF-α and IL-1 α are involved.
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