Coiling Phagocytosis is the Predominant Mechanism for Uptake of the Colonic Spirochetosis Bacterium Serpulina Pilosicoli by Human Monocytes Academic Article uri icon


  • Serpulina pilosicoli is a newly identified pathogenic spirochete that establishes persistent colonic infections in human beings and animals. Macrophages are one of the key defenses against invasion of mucosal surfaces by bacterial pathogens. Macrophages engulf many bacteria by conventional phagocytosis; however recent studies indicate coiling phagocytosis as a new and important mechanism for internalization of Legionella pneumophila and spirochetes of the genus Borrelia, Leptospira, and Treponema. In this study, THP-1 human monocytic cells were incubated with the human S. pilosicoli strain SP16 and the contribution of coiling and conventional phagocytosis to the total number of phagocytic events were determined by sequential ultrastructural examination between 5 and 45 minutes. The frequency of phagocytosis increased over time from 5.1% after 5 minutes up to 21.9% after 45 minutes with greater than 70% of the events involving coiling phagocytosis. The data indicate that coiling phagocytosis may be a universal mechanism for uptake of pathogenic spirochetes.

author list (cited authors)

  • Cheng, X., Cirillo, J. D., & Duhamel, G. E.

citation count

  • 6

publication date

  • January 1999