The cysteine proteinases referred to as gingipains R (gingipain R1 and gingipain R2) and gingipain K produced by Porphyromonas gingivalis are virulence factors of this periodontal pathogen which likely act by interrupting host defense mechanisms and by participating in the penetration and destruction of host connective tissue. To examine the effect of immunization with gingipains R on the ability of P. gingivalis to colonize and invade in the mouse chamber model, BALB/c mice were immunized intraperitoneally with the 95-kDa gingipain R1, the 50-kDa gingipain R2, or multiple antigenic peptide (MAP)-conjugated gingipain R-derived peptides and then challenged with P. gingivalis. Immunization of mice with the 95-kDa gingipain R1, the 50-kDa gingipain R2, or a peptide derived from the N-terminal sequence of the catalytic domain of gingipains R (peptide A) followed by challenge with P. gingivalis A7436 resulted in protection from P. gingivalis invasion. In contrast, immunization with peptides corresponding to either a sequence encompassing the catalytic cysteine residue of gingipains R (peptide B) or an identical sequence within the catalytic domains of gingipain R1 and gingipain K (peptide C), followed by challenge with P. gingivalis, did not protect animals, nor did immunization with a peptide corresponding to sequences within the adhesion/hemagglutinin domain of gingipain R1 (peptide D) which have been shown to be directly involved in the hemagglutinin activity of gingipain R1. However, the immunoglobulin G (IgG) titer obtained following immunization with peptide D was comparable to that obtained following immunization with the N-terminal peptide (peptide A). Competitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays, using either the 95-kDa gingipain R1 or gingipain K as the competing soluble antigen, indicated that 42 and 53% of the antibodies induced by immunization with heat-killed bacteria recognize gingipain R1 and gingipain K, respectively; however, even at very high concentrations, the 50-kDa gingipain R2 did not hinder IgG binding to P. gingivalis. These results indicate that antibodies directed to the amino-terminal region of the catalytic domain of gingipains R are capable of inducing a protective immune response against P. gingivalis infection in the mouse chamber model.