Interactions of oral streptococci and actinomyces with polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMNs), mediated by sialic acid- and Gal/GalNAc-reactive adhesins, respectively, result in activation of the PMNs and thereby may contribute to the initiation of oral inflammation. Sialidase treatment of PMNs or HL-60 cells abolished adhesion of Streptococcus gordonii but was required for adhesion of Actinomyces naeslundii. The same effects of sialidase were noted for adhesion of these bacteria to a major 150-kDa surface glycoprotein of either PMNs or undifferentiated HL-60 cells and to a 130-kDa surface glycoprotein of differentiated HL-60 cells. These glycoproteins were both identified as leukosialin (CD43) by immunoprecipitation with a specific monoclonal antibody (MAb). Adhesion of streptococci and actinomyces to a 200-kDa minor PMN surface glycoprotein was also detected by bacterial overlay of untreated and sialidase-treated nitrocellulose transfers, respectively. This glycoprotein was identified as leukocyte common antigen (CD45) by immunoprecipitation with a specific MAb. CD43 and CD45 both possess extracellular mucinlike domains in addition to intracellular domains that are implicated in signal transduction. Consequently, the interactions of streptococci and actinomyces with the mucinlike domains of these mammalian cell surface glycoproteins result not only in adhesion but, in addition, may represent the initial step in PMN activation by these bacteria.