Borrelia burgdorferi-induced inflammation facilitates spirochete adaptation and variable major protein-like sequence locus recombination

J. Anguita, V. Thomas, S. Samanta, R. Persinski, C. Hernanz, Stephen W Barthold, E. Fikrig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

37 Scopus citations


Spirochete adaptation in vivo is associated with preferential Borrelia burgdorferi gene expression. In this paper, we show that the administration of B. burgdorferi-immune sera to IFN-γR-deficient mice that have been infected with B. burgdorferi N40 for 4 days causes spirochete clearance. In contrast, immune sera-mediated clearance of B. burgdorferi N40 is not apparent in immunocompetent mice, suggesting a role for IFN-γ-mediated responses in B. burgdorferi N40 host adaptation. B. burgdorferi-immune sera also induces clearance of B. burgdorferi N40 that have been passaged in vitro 75 times (B. burgdorferi N40-75), a derivative of B. burgdorferi N40 that does not rapidly adapt in vivo in immunocompetent mice. B. burgdorferi N40-75 produce lower levels of IFN-γ and IL-12 in mice than does B. burgdorferi N40, and the administration of these cytokines to B. burgdorferi N40-75-infected mice results in an increased spirochetal burden, further indicating that IFN-γ-mediated events promote B. burgdorferi survival. Differential immunoscreening and RT-PCR demonstrate that IFN-γ-mediated signals facilitate spirochete recombination at the variable major protein like sequence locus, a site for early antigenic variation in vivo, and that recombination rates by B. burgdorferi N40 are lower in IFN-γR-deficient mice than in control animals. These results suggest that the murine immune response can promote the in vivo adaptation of B. burgdorferi.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3383-3390
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 15 2001
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology

Cite this