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Although Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of
Lyme disease, is found at the site of many
disease manifestations, local infection may not explain all its features. B. burgdorferi’s flagellin cross-reacts with a component of human peripheral nerve axon, previously identified as heat shock protein 60 (HSP60). The cross-reacting epitopes are bound by a monoclonal antibody to B. burgdorferi’s flagellin, H9724. Addition of H9724 to neuroblastoma cell cultures blocks in vitro spontaneous and peptide growth-factor-stimulated neuritogenesis. Withdrawal of H9724 allows return to normal growth and differentiation. Using electron microscopy, immunoprecipitation and immunoblotting, and FACS analysis we sought to identify the site of binding of H9724, with the starting hypotheses that the binding was intracellular and not identical to the binding site of II-13, a monoclonal anti-HSP60 antibody. The current studies show that H9724 binds to an intracellular target in cultured cells with negligible, if any, surface binding. We previously showed that sera from patients with neurological manifestations of
Lyme disease bound to human axons in a pattern identical to H9724’s binding; these same sera also bind to an intracellular neuroblastoma cell target. II-13 binds to a different HSP60 epitope than H9724: II-13 does not modify cellular function in vitro. As predicted, II-13 bound to mitochondria, in a pattern of cellular binding very different from H9724, which bound in a scattered cytoplasmic, nonorganelle-related pattern. H9724’s effect is the first evidence that HSP60 may play a role in peptide-hormone-receptor function and demonstrates the modulatory potential of a monoclonal antibody on living cells.