The aim of the present study was to elucidate events related to receptor function, signal transmission and cytoskeletal rearrangements concurrent with Porphyromonas gingivalis invasion of oral epithelial cells in vitro. Porphyromonas gingivalis strain FDC 381 and the KB cell line (ATCC CCL 17) were used in a previously described antibiotic protection assay. The involvement of a receptor-mediated endocytosis pathway in the internalization process was demonstrated after treatment of the epithelial cells with monodansylcadaverine and ouabain, substances that inhibit formation of coated pits, resulting in reduction in the number of invading P. gingivalis: Treatment of the epithelial cells with the protein kinase (PK) inhibitor staurosporine and the tyrosine-specific PK inhibitor genistein was also found to significantly decrease the number of invading bacteria, suggesting involvement of tyrosine phosphorylation in signal transduction during invasion. This was further supported by the identification of a 43 kD protein acting as a substrate for tyrosine phosphorylation subsequent to the microbial-host cell interaction. Tyrosine phosphorylation of the 43 kD protein was strongly reduced by treatment with PK inhibitors. The decrease in invasion observed after treatment of epithelial cells with colchicine and nocodazole, inhibitors of microtubuli polymerization, suggested that the bacterial-receptor interaction and the phosphotyrosine-dependent intracellular signalling trigger an internalization process involving rearrangements of cytoskeletal microtubuli.