The influence of the two surface structures of Neisseria meningitidis, capsule and pili, in bacterial interactions with human endothelial cells was investigated. Increased association correlated with the presence of pili on bacteria while capsule type had no apparent effect. Strains expressing both Class I and Class II pili associated with endothelial cells in significantly larger numbers compared with the non-piliated variants of the same strains (greater than 10x). Variants of Neisseria gonorrhoeae strain P9 expressing antigenically distinct pili also associated with endothelial cells in larger numbers (greater than 30x) compared with the non-piliated variant. Electron microscopic studies confirmed these data and showed that gonococci were internalized more frequently compared with meningococci. One consequence of increased association was an increase in the cytopathic effect of bacteria on the target cells.