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Borrelia Burgdorferi has a predilection for collagenous tissue and can interact with fibronectin and cellular collagens. While the molecular mechanisms of how B. burgdorferi targets connective tissues and causes arthritis are not understood, the spirochetes can bind to a number of different cell types, including fibroblasts. A novel circulating fibroblast-like cell called the peripheral blood fibrocyte has recently been described. Fibrocytes express collagen types I and III as well as fibronectin. Besides playing a role in wound healing, fibrocytes have the potential to target to connective tissue and the functional capacity to recruit, activate, and present antigen to CD4(+) T cells.
MATERIALS AND METHODS:
Rhesus monkey fibrocytes were isolated and characterized by flow cytometry. B. burgdorferi were incubated with human or monkey fibrocyte cultures in vitro and the cellular interactions analyzed by light and electron microscopy. The two strains of B. burgdorferi studied included JD1, which is highly pathogenic for monkeys, and M297, which lacks the cell surface OspA and OspB proteins.
In this study, we demonstrate that B. burgdorferi binds to both human and monkey (rhesus) fibrocytes in vitro. This process does not require OspA or OspB. In addition, the spirochetes are not phagocytosed but are taken into deep recesses of the cell membrane, a process that may protect them from the immune system.
This interaction between B. burgdorferi and peripheral blood fibrocytes provides a potential explanation for the targeting of spirochetes to joint connective tissue and may contribute to the inflammatory process in