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The agent of
Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, has a number of outer membrane proteins that are differentially regulated during its life cycle. In addition to their physiological functions in the organism, these proteins also likely serve different functions in invasiveness and immune evasion. In borreliae, as well as in other bacteria, a number of membrane proteins have been implicated in binding plasminogen. The activation and transformation of plasminogen into its proteolytically active form, plasmin, enhances the ability of the bacteria to disseminate in the host. Outer membrane vesicles of B. burgdorferi contain enolase, a glycolytic-cycle enzyme that catalyzes 2-phosphoglycerate to form phosphoenolpyruvate, which is also a known plasminogen receptor in Gram-positive bacteria. The enolase was cloned, expressed, purified, and used to generate rabbit antienolase serum. The enolase binds plasminogen in a lysine-dependent manner but not through ionic interactions. Although it is present in the outer membrane, microscopy and proteinase K treatment showed that enolase does not appear to be exposed on the surface. However, enolase in the outer membrane vesicles is accessible to proteolytic degradation by proteinase K. Samples from experimentally and tick-infected mice and rabbits as well as from
Lyme disease patients exhibit recognition of enolase in serologic assays. Thus, this immunogenic plasminogen receptor released in outer membrane vesicles could be responsible for external proteolysis in the pericellular environment and have roles in nutrition and in enhancing dissemination.