The lipoprotein outer surface protein A (OspA) of the
Lyme disease agent. Borrelia burgdorferi, has provided protection to mice and other animals against systemic infection when delivered orally as a recombinant protein in Escherichia coli, bacille Calmette. Guerin or Salmonella typhimurium. In the present study purified recombinant strain B31 OspA or outer surface protein D (OspD), another lipoprotein of B. burgdorferi, were administered either subcutaneously (s.c.) or orally without cell carrier or adjuvant to mice. In comparison to the OspD preparation, the OspA protein was 256-fold more resistant to trypsin. Whereas OspA in the suspension was in regular complexes of 17-25 nm in size, OspD formed amorphous globules of different sizes. Animals received a primary immunization and at least one booster. Mice immunized s.c. with either OspA or OspD had detectable antibodies to B. burgdorferi by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), growth inhibition assay (GIA) and immunoblot. Delivered orally, OspA but not OspD elicited a specific antibody response, including IgA, as determined by these assays. The geometric mean titre of sera from mice who received 4 micrograms of OspA orally on days 1, 2, 4, 21 and 22 was 1470 by Ig ELISA, 320 by IgA ELISA and 128 by GIA. In infectious challenge experiments with B. burgdorferi strain Sh2-2-82 (OspA+ OspD- ) inoculated intradermally at 100 x the ID 50 all eight mice immunized with the 4 micrograms dose of OspA were protected, none of the mice immunized with the 4 micrograms dose of OspD were protected (P < 0.001 by Fisher exact test). These studies indicate that the lipoprotein OspA provides protection against systemic B. burgdorferi infection when delivered orally as a purified protein.