Interaction of chlamydiae and host cells in vitro

Microbiol Rev. 1991 Mar;55(1):143-90. doi: 10.1128/mr.55.1.143-190.1991.


The obligately intracellular bacteria of the genus Chlamydia, which is only remotely related to other eubacterial genera, cause many diseases of humans, nonhuman mammals, and birds. Interaction of chlamydiae with host cells in vitro has been studied as a model of infection in natural hosts and as an example of the adaptation of an organism to an unusual environment, the inside of another living cell. Among the novel adaptations made by chlamydiae have been the substitution of disulfide-bond-cross-linked polypeptides for peptidoglycans and the use of host-generated nucleotide triphosphates as sources of metabolic energy. The effect of contact between chlamydiae and host cells in culture varies from no effect at all to rapid destruction of either chlamydiae or host cells. When successful infection occurs, it is usually followed by production of large numbers of progeny and destruction of host cells. However, host cells containing chlamydiae sometimes continue to divide, with or without overt signs of infection, and chlamydiae may persist indefinitely in cell cultures. Some of the many factors that influence the outcome of chlamydia-host cell interaction are kind of chlamydiae, kind of host cells, mode of chlamydial entry, nutritional adequacy of the culture medium, presence of antimicrobial agents, and presence of immune cells and soluble immune factors. General characteristics of chlamydial multiplication in cells of their natural hosts are reproduced in established cell lines, but reproduction in vitro of the subtle differences in chlamydial behavior responsible for the individuality of the different chlamydial diseases will require better in vitro models.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chlamydia / growth & development
  • Chlamydia / physiology*
  • Humans