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Lyme disease, due to infection with the tick-borne spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi, is a multisystem disorder that can lead to chronic disabling symptoms. Abs to the outer surface protein A (OspA) of B. burgdorferi provide protection against infection, and OspA is now the basis of a first generation recombinant vaccine undergoing phase III efficacy studies. Recent studies have suggested that T cells reactive with N-terminal epitopes in OspA could contribute to the development of treatment-resistant
Lyme arthritis. In the present studies, we use the murine model of
Lyme borreliosis to define an OspA T cell epitope located in the carboxyl terminus that accelerates anti-OspA IgG production after infection. In addition, we show that this T cell epitope is elicited by immunization with rOspA or with a truncated form of OspA that contains the B cell epitope targeted by protective OspA mAb. Polyclonal antisera to the truncated OspA fragment can protect mice from challenge infection. These results are the first demonstration of a B. burgdorferi-specific peptide that elicits a biologically important T cell response in vivo and have implications for the design of a second generation OspA-based subunit vaccine.