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The etiological agent of
Lyme disease is the tick-borne spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi. A major antigen of B. burgdorferi is a 31 kDa lipoprotein called outer surface protein A (OspA). Recently, a truncated form of OspA (lacking 17 amino acids at the N-terminus) was cloned, expressed and purified in large quantities (Dunn, J.J., Lade, B.A. and Barbour, A.G. (1990) Protein Expression and Purification 1, 159-168). The truncated protein (OspA-257) is water-soluble, retains the ability to bind antibodies from the sera of
Lyme disease patients and may prove useful in development of a vaccine against
Lyme disease. We have used far UV circular dichroism (CD) and fluorescence spectroscopy to characterize the secondary structure of and to study conformational changes in OspA-257. CD spectra from 260 to 178 nm predict five classes of secondary structure: alpha-helix (11%), anti-parallel beta-sheet (32%), parallel beta-sheet (10%), beta-turns (18%) and aperiodic structures (including ‘random coil’) (30%). Analysis of the primary sequence of OspA yielded the most likely sites for alpha-helical regions (residues 100-107, 121-134, 253-273) and for antigenic determinants (Lys-46, Asp-82, Lys-231). CD spectra of the native protein show little change from pH 3 to 11. Thermal denaturation curves, indicate that ‘salt bridges’ play a role in stabilizing the native protein. Both thermal and chemical denaturations that eliminate all secondary structure as judged by CD or fluorescence are reversible. Denaturation by guanidine-HCl (gdn-HCl) appears to be a cooperative, two-state transition, as indicated by a sudden change in the CD spectrum at approximately 0.75 M gdn-HCl, and an isodichroic point at 208 nm in all CD spectra measured from 0.0-1.75 M gdn-HCl.