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The modulation of human lymphocyte proliferative responses was demonstrated with a recombinant outer surface protein A (OspA) vaccine preparation for the prevention of Borrelia burgdorferi infection. After exposure to either the unaltered vaccine preparation or OspA prepared in saline, normal lymphocyte responses to the mitogens concanavalin A, phytohemagglutinin-M or pokeweed mitogen, or the antigen BCG were consistently reduced. Whole cell extracts of B. burgdorferi also modulated immune responses but required a much greater quantity of protein than needed for the OspA preparation. The magnitude of modulation was directly dependent on the quantity of OspA. OspA interferes with the response of lymphocytes to proliferative stimuli including a blocking of cell cycle phase progression. Future studies designed to delete the particular region or component of the OspA molecule responsible for this effect may lead to improved vaccine preparations.