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Bioluminescent imaging of Borrelia burgdorferi in vivo demonstrates that the fibronectin-binding protein BBK32 is required for optimal infectivity.

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Abstract

The aetiological agent of
Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, is transmitted via infected Ixodes spp. ticks. Infection, if untreated, results in dissemination to multiple tissues and significant morbidity. Recent developments in bioluminescence technology allow in vivo imaging and quantification of pathogenic organisms during infection. Herein, luciferase-expressing B. burgdorferi and strains lacking the decorin adhesins DbpA and DbpB, as well as the fibronectin adhesin BBK32, were quantified by bioluminescent imaging to further evaluate their pathogenic potential in infected mice. Quantification of bacterial load was verified by quantitative PCR (qPCR) and cultivation. B. burgdorferi lacking DbpA and DbpB were only seen at the 1 h time point post infection, consistent with its low infectivity phenotype. The bbk32 mutant exhibited a significant decrease in its infectious load at day 7 relative to its parent. This effect was most pronounced at lower inocula and imaging correlated well with qPCR data. These data suggest that BBK32-mediated binding plays an important role in B. burgdorferi colonization. As such, in vivo imaging of bioluminescent Borrelia provides a sensitive means to detect, quantify and temporally characterize borrelial dissemination in a non-invasive, physiologically relevant environment and, more importantly, demonstrated a quantifiable infectivity defect for the bbk32 mutant.

© 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Mol Microbiol. 2011 Oct;82(1):99-113. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2011.07801.x. Epub 2011 Aug 30. Evaluation Studies; Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural; Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov’t

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