Borrelia burgdorferi, the pathogen of
Lyme disease, cycles in nature through Ixodes ticks and mammalian hosts. At least five Complement Regulator-Acquiring Surface Proteins (BbCRASPs) are produced by B. burgdorferi, which are thought to assist spirochetes in host immune evasion. Recent studies established that BbCRASP-2 is preferentially expressed in mammals, and elicits robust antibody response in infected hosts, including humans. We show that BbCRASP-2 is ubiquitously expressed in diverse murine tissues, but not in ticks, reinforcing a role of BbCRASP-2 in conferring B. burgdorferi defense against persistent host immune threats, such as complement. BbCRASP-2 immunization, however, fails to protect mice from B. burgdorferi infection and does not modify
disease, as reflected by the development of arthritis. An infectious BbCRASP-2 mutant was generated, therefore, to examine the precise role of the gene product in spirochete infectivity. Similar to wild type B. burgdorferi, BbCRASP-2 mutants remain insensitive to complement-mediated killing in vitro, retain full murine infectivity and induce arthritis. Quantitative RT-PCR assessment indicates that survivability of BbCRASP-2-deficient B. burgdorferi is not due to altered expression of other BbCRASPs. Together, these results suggest that the function of a selectively expressed B. burgdorferi gene, BbCRASP-2, is not essential for complement resistance or infectivity in the murine host.