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Borrelia burgdorferi changes its surface antigenic expression in response to host immune responses.

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Abstract

The
Lyme disease spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi, causes persistent mammalian infection despite the development of vigorous immune responses against the pathogen. To examine spirochetal phenotypes that dominate in the hostile immune environment, the mRNA transcripts of four prototypic surface lipoproteins, decorin-binding protein A (DbpA), outer surface protein C (OspC), BBF01, and VlsE, were analyzed by quantitative reverse transcription-PCR under various immune conditions. We demonstrate that B. burgdorferi changes its surface antigenic expression in response to immune attack. dbpA expression was unchanged while the spirochetes decreased ospC expression by 446 times and increased BBF01 and vlsE expression up to 20 and 32 times, respectively, under the influence of immune pressure generated in immunocompetent mice during infection. This change in antigenic expression could be induced by passively immunizing infected severe combined immunodeficiency mice with specific Borrelia antisera or OspC antibody and appears to allow B. burgdorferi to resist immune attack.

Infect Immun. 2004 Oct;72(10):5759-67. Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov’t; Research Support, U.S. Gov’t, P.H.S.

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