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Murine monoclonal antibodies directed against proteins of Borrelia burgdorferi B31 (low passage) were generated by the administration of antigen via the bite of borrelia-infected ticks. This strategy was employed as a mechanism to create antibodies against antigens presented by the natural route of tick transmission versus those presented by inoculation with cultured borreliae. One of the resultant antibodies reacted with a 17-kDa antigen from cultured B. burgdorferi, as seen by immunoblot analysis. This antibody was used to screen a B. burgdorferi genomic DNA lambda vector expression library, and an immunoreactive clone was isolated. DNA sequence analysis of this clone, containing a 2.7-kb insert, revealed several open reading frames. These open reading frames were found to be homologs of genes discovered as a multicopy gene family in the 297 strain of B. burgdorferi by Porcella et al. (S. F. Porcella, T. G. Popova, D. R. Akins, M. Li, J. D. Radolf, and M. V. Norgard, J. Bacteriol. 178:3293-3307, 1996). By selectively subcloning genes found in this insert into an Escherichia coli plasmid expression vector, the observation was made that the rev gene product was the protein reactive with the 17-kDa-specific monoclonal antibody. The rev gene product was found to be expressed in low-passage, but not in high-passage, B. burgdorferi B31. Correspondingly, the rev gene was not present in strain B31 genomic DNA from cultures that had been passaged >50 times. Serum samples from
Lyme disease patients demonstrated an antibody response against the Rev protein. The generation of an anti-Rev response in
Lyme disease patients, and in mice by tick bite inoculation, provides evidence that the Rev protein is expressed and immunogenic during the course of natural transmission and infection.