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Lyme borreliosis is characterized by arthritis and carditis that are most severe at 2 to 3 wk, then regress during the course of persistent infection. Borrelia burgdorferi-specific Abs and CD4+ T cells have been implicated in the resolution phase of arthritis. Therefore, MHC class II transactivator (CIITA)-deficient mice that do not express conventional class II molecules and lack the normal CD4 repertoire were used to investigate the role of MHC class II-mediated responses in
Lyme disease. The development of arthritis and carditis, and the resolution of arthritis, were similar in CIITA-deficient and control C57/BL6 mice. In contrast, the resolution of carditis was delayed in CIITA-deficient animals compared with controls. Moreover, CIITA-deficient mice developed B. burgdorferi-specific IgG2b Abs, and sera from these animals passively protected naive C3H/HeN mice from challenge inoculation and cleared B. burgdorferi from 2 day-infected C.B.17 SCID mice. These data suggest that CD4+ T cells and MHC class II-mediated responses are not required for the generation of protective Abs or the regression of arthritis, but may be important in the resolution of
Lyme carditis in mice.