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Neurological manifestations of
Lyme disease (or neuroborreliosis) occur variably and while it is clear that Borrelia burgdorferi can invade the nervous system, how it does so is not well understood. Pathogen penetration through the blood brain barrier (BBB) is often influenced by calcium signaling in the endothelial cells triggered by extracellular host-pathogen interactions. We examined the traversal of B. burgdorferi across the human BBB using in vitro model systems constructed of human brain microvascular endothelial cells (HBMEC) grown on Costar Transwell inserts. Pretreatment of the cell monolayers with BAPTA-AM (an intracellular calcium chelator) or phospholipase C (PLC) inhibitor U73122 inhibited B. burgdorferi transmigration. By 5 h, BAPTA-AM significantly inhibited (82-99%; p <0.017) spirochete traversal of HBMEC compared to DMSO controls. Spirochete traversal was almost totally blocked (> or =99%; p <0.017) after pretreatment with the PLC-beta inhibitor U73122 as a result of barrier tightening based on electric cell-substrate impedance sensing (ECIS). The data suggest a role for calcium signaling in CNS spirochete invasion through endothelial cell barriers.