NYMC Faculty Publications

Borrelia Burgdorferi Outer Surface Protein C Is Not the Sole Determinant of Dissemination in Mammals

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Journal Title

Infection and Immunity

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Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology

Second Department



Lyme disease in the United States is most often caused by Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto. After a tick bite, the patient may develop erythema migrans at that site. If hematogenous dissemination occurs, the patient may then develop neurologic manifestations, carditis, or arthritis. Host-pathogen interactions include factors that contribute to hematogenous dissemination to other body sites. Outer surface protein C (OspC), a surface-exposed lipoprotein of B. burgdorferi, is essential during the early stages of mammalian infection. There is a high degree of genetic variation at the locus, and certain types are more frequently associated with hematogenous dissemination in patients, suggesting that OspC may be a major contributing factor to the clinical outcome of B. burgdorferi infection. In order to evaluate the role of OspC in B. burgdorferi dissemination, was exchanged between B. burgdorferi isolates with different capacities to disseminate in laboratory mice, and these strains were then tested for their ability to disseminate in mice. The results indicated that the ability of B. burgdorferi to disseminate in mammalian hosts does not depend on OspC alone. The complete genome sequences of two closely related strains of B. burgdorferi with differing dissemination phenotypes were determined, but a specific genetic locus that could explain the differences in the phenotypes could not be definitively identified. The animal studies performed clearly demonstrated that OspC is not the sole determinant of dissemination. Future studies of the type described here with additional borrelial strains will hopefully clarify the genetic elements associated with hematogenous dissemination.