Detection and functional characterization of early appearing antibodies in rabbits with experimental syphilis

Can J Microbiol. 1985 Jan;31(1):62-7. doi: 10.1139/m85-013.


Following testicular infection of rabbits with Treponema pallidum, different antibodies become detectable initially at the time of healing. Experiments were performed to determine a functional role for these antibodies. Rabbits were sacrificed after 4-8 days. Treponemal numbers steadily increased for 10-12 days. Thereafter, host defenses were sufficiently stimulated to begin clearing the organisms. Antibodies in serum and antibodies localized at the site of infection were quantitated using radioimmunoassay and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) techniques. Anti-treponemal IgG was detected as early as day 4. Quantities of antibody correspondingly increased with time following infection. Treponema pallidum was harvested 7 and 14 days postinfection and tested for surface antibodies. With increasing days postinfection, more antibody was found on the organisms. Two functional properties of these antibodies were shown. Sera from 24 of 45 rabbits infected for 14 days immobilized T. pallidum in the presence of complement and 14-day sera blocked the attachment of T. pallidum to tissue culture cells. We suggest that antibody-mediated, complement-dependent immobilization of T. pallidum and blockage of attachment are at least partially responsible for healing of testicular lesions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Bacterial / analysis*
  • Antibodies, Bacterial / physiology
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Male
  • Rabbits
  • Radioimmunoassay
  • Syphilis / immunology*
  • Treponema Immobilization Test
  • Treponema pallidum / immunology*
  • Treponema pallidum / physiology


  • Antibodies, Bacterial