The evolutionary watershed of susceptibility to gonococcal infection

Zell A. McGee, Clark R. Gregg, Alan P. Johnson, Seymour S. Kalter, David Taylor-Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Gonococci do not cause genital infection in any convenient experimental animal, but all too easily cause genital infection in humans. To determine the 'evolutionary watershed' of gonococcal infections (the point on the evolutionary tree at which susceptibility to gonococcal infection begins) we extended previous studies of the interaction of gonococci with animal oviduct mucosa to include chimpanzees and baboons. Gonococci attached to, damaged, and invaded the oviduct (fallopian tube) mucosa of chimpanzees (which are apes) but not the oviduct mucosa of baboons (which are monkeys). Thus, the pattern of gonococcal infection in chimpanzees was identical to that in humans, whereas the pattern in baboons was like that in other animals. These studies indicate that the point in evolution at which susceptibility to gonococcal infection commences is between baboons and chimpanzees (or between monkeys and apes). Susceptibility to gonococcal disease appears to require the presence on genital epithelial cells of receptors for gonococcal ligands such as pili, receptors for gonococcal lipopolysaccharide, or both. The physiological role of these receptors may be to interact with more useful, as yet unidentified molecules.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)131-139
Number of pages9
JournalMicrobial Pathogenesis
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1990


  • Neisseria gonorrhoeae
  • attachment
  • evolution
  • invasion
  • pathogenic mechanisms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Infectious Diseases


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