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Borrelia burgdorferi outer surface protein (Osp) A is preferentially expressed by spirochetes in the Ixodes scapularis gut and facilitates pathogen-vector adherence in vitro. Here we examined B. burgdorferi-tick interactions in vivo by using Abs directed against OspA from each of the three major B. burgdorferi sensu lato genospecies: B. burgdorferi sensu stricto, Borrelia afzelii, and Borrelia garinii. Abs directed against B. burgdorferi sensu stricto (isolate N40) destroy the spirochete and can protect mice from infection. In contrast, antisera raised against OspA from B. afzelii (isolate ACA-1) and B. garinii (isolate ZQ-1) bind to B. burgdorferi N40 but are not borreliacidal against the N40 isolate. Our present studies assess whether these selected OspA Abs interfere with B. burgdorferi-tick attachment in a murine model of
Lyme disease with I. scapularis. We examined engorged ticks that had fed on B. burgdorferi N40-infected scid mice previously treated with OspA (N40, ACA-1, ZQ-1, or mAb C3.78) or control Abs. OspA-N40 antisera or mAb C3.78 destroyed B. burgdorferi N40 within the engorged ticks. In contrast, treatment of mice with OspA-ACA-1 and OspA-ZQ-1 antisera did not kill B. burgdorferi N40 within the ticks but did effectively interfere with B. burgdorferi-I. scapularis adherence, thereby preventing efficient colonization of the vector. These studies show that nonborreliacidal OspA Abs can inhibit B. burgdorferi attachment to the tick gut, highlighting the importance of OspA in spirochete-arthropod interactions in vivo.