Seroepidemiological and animal studies, as well as demonstration of viable bacteria in atherosclerotic plaques, have linked Chlamydophila pneumoniae infection to development of chronic vascular lesions and coronary heart disease. Inflammation and immune responses are dependent on host recognition of invading pathogens. The recently identified cytosolic Nod proteins are candidates for intracellular recognition of bacteria, such as the obligate intracellular chlamydia. In the present study, mechanisms of endothelial cell activation by C. pneumoniae via Nod proteins were examined. Viable, but not heat-inactivated, chlamydia activated human endothelial cells, suggesting that invasion of these cells is necessary for their profound activation. Endothelial cells express Nod1. Nod1 gene silencing by small interfering RNA reduced C pneumoniae-induced IL-8 release markedly. Moreover, in HEK293 cells, overexpressed Nod1 or Nod2 amplified the capacity of C pneumoniae to induce nuclear factor kappaB (NF-kappaB) activation. Interestingly, heat-inactivated bacteria were still able to induced a NF-kappaB reporter gene activity via Nod proteins when transfected intracellularly, but not when provided from the extracellular side. In contrast, TLR2 sensed extracellular heat-inactivated chlamydia. In conclusion, we demonstrated that C pneumoniae induced a Nod1-mediated and Nod2-mediated NF-kappaB activation in HEK293 cells. In endothelial cells, Nod1 played a dominant role in triggering a chlamydia-mediated inflammatory process.