Lyme disease, a chronic multisystemic disorder that can affect the skin, heart, joints, and nervous system is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato.
Lyme disease spirochetes were previously shown to bind glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). In the current study, the GAG-binding properties of eight
Lyme disease strains were determined. Binding by two high-passage HB19 derivatives to Vero cells could not be inhibited by enzymatic removal of GAGs or by the addition of exogenous GAG. The other six strains, which included a different high-passage HB19 derivative (HB19 clone 1), were shown to recognize both heparan sulfate and dermatan sulfate in cell-binding assays, but the relative efficiency of binding to these two GAGs varied among the strains. Strains N40, CA20-2A, and PBi bound predominantly to heparan sulfate, PBo bound both heparan sulfate and dermatan sulfate roughly equally, and VS461 and HB19 clone 1 recognized primarily dermatan sulfate. Cell binding by strain HB19 clone 1 was inhibited better by exogenous dermatan sulfate than by heparin, whereas heparin was the better inhibitor of binding by strain N40. The GAG-binding preference of a
Lyme disease strain was reflected in its cell-type-specific binding. Strains that recognized predominantly heparan sulfate bound efficiently to both C6 glioma cells and EA-Hy926 cells, whereas strains that recognized predominantly dermatan sulfate bound well only to the glial cells. The effect of lyase treatment of these cells on bacterial binding was consistent with the model that cell-type-specific binding was a reflection of the GAG-binding preference. We conclude that the GAG-binding preference varies with the strain of
Lyme disease spirochete and that this variation influences cell-type-specific binding in vitro.