NYMC Faculty Publications

Use of the Western Blot Technique to Identify the Immunogenic Proteins of Borrelia Burgdorferi for Developing a Lyme Disease Vaccine

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Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy

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BACKGROUND: Lyme disease is a serious infectious disease having a restricted worldwide distribution for which there is no vaccine available for human use. OBJECTIVE: This study was designed to determine common reactive antigens involved in Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb) infection that are recognized in mammalian sera that may be useful for vaccine development. METHODS: Blood samples were collected from patients with documented Lyme disease, and from rabbits and mice experimentally infected with either tick-transmitted or culture-grown Borrelia burgdorferi. All samples were then processed for sera. For performing the Western blots, sonicated Bb organisms (whole cell lysates) and protein ladders were separated by protein gel electrophoresis. Immune reactivities of the electrophoresed proteins with the serum samples were then probed with anti-HRP IgG reagent. RESULTS: Rabbit, mouse and human sera consistently reacted with the 41 kDa band of Bb which corresponded to the flagellin protein - the major protein component of this organism's periplasmic flagella, also known as axial filaments or fibrils. Various other Bb antigens of wide molecular weight ranges were also recognized by rabbit and human sera, and less frequently with mouse sera. CONCLUSION: The strong immune response to the 41 kDa flagellin protein by the different mammalian species suggests the utility of a possible vaccine targeting this protein, although other proteins may also be appropriate, for preventing Lyme disease following a bite from an infected tick.