Innate immunity is crucial for an effective host defense against pathogenic microorganisms in periodontal tissues. As periodontal ligament (PDL) cells synthesize immunomodulatory cytokines, the aim of this in vitro study was to investigate whether these cells can interact with innate immune cells. Resting and inflammatory primed (IL-1β, TNF-α, HMGB1) human PDL cells were co-cultured with human monocyte-derived dendritic cells or macrophages. Migration, phenotypic maturation and modulation of phagocytosis of Porphyromonas gingivalis by immune cells were investigated upon co-culture with PDL cells and/or their released soluble factors. PDL cells interacted with immune cells under both non-inflammatory and inflammatory conditions. Immune cell migration was significantly enhanced by co-culture with PDL cells, which also affected their phenotypic maturation both through cell-cell contact and through released soluble mediators. The dendritic cell maturation markers CD83 and CD86 were upregulated as much as both 'alternatively activated' M2 macrophage maturation markers CD23 and CD163. In contrast, the 'classically activated' M1 macrophage maturation marker CD64 was downregulated. Finally, PDL cells significantly enhanced the phagocytosis of Porphyromonas gingivalis by immune cells. Our experiments revealed that PDL cells are not only structural elements of the periodontium, but actively influence immune responses by interaction with innate immune cells.