Ultrastructural and molecular analyses of the persistence of Chlamydia trachomatis (serovar K) in human monocytes

Microb Pathog. 1997 Mar;22(3):133-42. doi: 10.1006/mpat.1996.0103.


Previous studies have suggested that monocytes may play a role in the dissemination of Chlamydia trachomatis, and in establishment of persistent infection with this bacterium. Infection of cultured human peripheral blood monocytes with C. trachomatis serovar K produced persistent, nonproductive infection. Transmission electron microscopy of such infected cultures revealed single or multiple Chlamydia in monocyte inclusions over a culture period of 10 days. Those inclusions were aberrant, and normal reticulate bodies within the inclusions were not observed. Immunoelectron microscopy showed the chlamydial major outer membrane protein and lipopolysaccharide to be associated with the bacterial plasma membrane. Lipopolysaccharide was also identified in the monocyte cytoplasm. Molecular analyses of primary chlamydial rRNA transcripts demonstrated that the organism is viable and metabolically active within monocyte inclusions. However, attempts to overcome chlamydial growth arrest by incubation of Chlamydia-infected monocytes with tryptophan, and antibodies against alpha interferon, gamma interferon, or tumor necrosis factor, were all ineffective, suggesting that known mechanisms of growth inhibition do not hold in human monocytes. These observations indicate that infection of human peripheral blood monocytes with C. trachomatis may be involved in the genesis/maintenance of extra-urogenital inflammation, since non-culturable, metabolically active bacteria persist in those cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Blocking / immunology
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins / immunology
  • Cell Membrane / chemistry
  • Cell Membrane / immunology
  • Cell Membrane / ultrastructure
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chlamydia Infections / microbiology*
  • Chlamydia trachomatis / growth & development
  • Chlamydia trachomatis / pathogenicity*
  • Chlamydia trachomatis / ultrastructure
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cytoplasm / metabolism
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • Humans
  • Interferon-alpha / immunology
  • Interferon-gamma / immunology
  • Lipopolysaccharides / immunology
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Microscopy, Immunoelectron
  • Monocytes / microbiology
  • Monocytes / ultrastructure
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • RNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • RNA, Transfer / analysis
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Tryptophan / pharmacology
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / immunology


  • Antibodies, Blocking
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • Interferon-alpha
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • RNA, Bacterial
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Interferon-gamma
  • Tryptophan
  • RNA, Transfer