Colonial variants of Neisseria gonorrhoeae strain P9 expressing different pili and/or outer membrane protein II (P.II) were investigated with respect to their interaction with human polymorphonuclear leucocytes (PMN). Two assay systems were used. A phagocytic killing assay measured the intracellular survival of gonococci, and PMN chemiluminescence (CL) was used to determine the initial surface interactions. All variants expressing P.II were killed effectively by PMN and also greatly stimulated PMN CL. The P.II- variants, on the other hand, were resistant to phagocytic killing and stimulated a much lower CL response. The presence of different P.II species was associated with different CL profiles and therefore different modes of interaction with the PMN membrane. A P.II-specific monoclonal IgG was opsonic and greatly increased PMN CL in contrast to F(ab')2 prepared from the same antibody, which inhibited it, thus confirming the role of P.II in the PMN interaction. Phagocytic killing assays revealed that with the loss of P.II, gonococcal variants acquired resistance to killing. Comparison of piliated and non-piliated pairs of variants with the same P.II profile showed that PMN-gonococcal interactions are dominated by the nature of the P.II species present whereas pili have little effect.