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Host genetics play an important role in determining resistance or susceptibility to experimental
Lyme arthritis. While specific immunity appears to regulate
disease resolution, innate immunity appears to regulate
disease severity. Intradermal infection with Borrelia burgdorferi yields severe arthritis in C3H/He (C3H) mice but only minimal arthritis in BALB/c mice. Intradermal infection of immunodeficient C3H SCID mice also results in severe arthritis, but arthritis of only moderate severity in BALB/c SCID mice. In the present study, we examined immunodeficient recombinase-activating gene-knockout (RAG-1(-/-)) (RAG-) mice from resistant C57BL/6 (B6) and DBA/2 (DBA) mouse strains. B. burgdorferi-infected B6 RAG- and DBA RAG- mice had little or no ankle swelling, a low occurrence of inflammatory infiltrates in tibiotarsal joints, and low arthritis severity scores in comparison to RAG+ and RAG- BALB/c or C3H mice. Few differences in spirochete DNA levels in ankles of resistant and susceptible RAG- mice were seen. These data suggest that resistance to arthritis development following B. burgdorferi infection is not necessarily dependent on an acquired immune response and can occur despite the presence of high spirochete burden. Thus, genes expressed outside the specific immune response can be central regulators of experimental arthritis.