In this study, evidence is presented that mixed infection with the periodontal pathogens Porphyromonas gingivalis and Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans results in a synergistic effect in their pathogenicity and in their ability to induce humoral and cellular host responses. BALB/c mice were injected subcutaneously on the back with P. gingivalis ATCC 53977, A. actinomycetemcomitans 75 or a mixture of both bacteria. Samples of blood and fluid from abscesses formed at the site of injection (first degree) or distant from the injection site were collected for microbiologic analysis. Serum and spleens were obtained for evaluation of humoral and cellular responses to P. gingivalis and A. actinomycetemcomitans. Mice injected with A. actinomycetemcomitans had first-degree lesions only, whereas mice injected with P. gingivalis and A. actinomycetemcomitans had lesions at first- and second-degree sites from which both bacterial species were isolated. A serum anti-P. gingivalis response was induced in P. gingivalis-injected mice, which was higher in mice injected with P. gingivalis and A. actinomycetemcomitans. This pattern was not seen in the anti-A. actinomycetemcomitans response. Lymphoproliferative responses to phytohemagglutinin, Escherichia coli lipopolysaccharide and P. gingivalis of spleen cells from infected mice were decreased, especially following co-infection. Furthermore, co-infection of mice resulted in the greatest decrease in the number of CD5+, especially CD4+ lymphocytes.