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The agent of
Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, produces membrane lipoproteins possessing potent inflammatory properties linked to
disease pathology. The recent association of toll-like receptors (TLR) 2 and 4 with LPS responses prompted the examination of TLR involvement in lipoprotein signaling. The ability of human cell lines to respond to lipoproteins was correlated with the expression of TLR2. Transfection of TLR2 into cell lines conferred responsiveness to lipoproteins, lipopeptides, and sonicated B. burgdorferi, as measured by nuclear translocation of NF-kappaB and cytokine production. The physiological importance of this interaction was demonstrated by the 10-fold greater sensitivity of TLR2-transfected cells to lipoproteins than LPS. Futhermore, TLR2-dependent signaling by lipoproteins was facilitated by CD14. These data indicate that TLR2 facilitates the inflammatory events associated with
Lyme arthritis. In addition, the widespread expression of lipoproteins by other bacterial species suggests that this interaction may have broad implications in microbial inflammation and pathogenesis.