Antibody Response to Lyme Disease Spirochetes in the Context of VlsE-Mediated Immune Evasion.
ABSTRACT: Lyme disease (LD), the most prevalent tick-borne illness in North America, is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi The long-term survival of B. burgdorferi spirochetes in the mammalian host is achieved though VlsE-mediated antigenic variation. It is mathematically predicted that a highly variable surface antigen prolongs bacterial infection sufficiently to exhaust the immune response directed toward invariant surface antigens. If the prediction is correct, it is expected that the antibody response to B. burgdorferi invariant antigens will become nonprotective as B. burgdorferi infection progresses. To test this assumption, changes in the protective efficacy of the immune response to B. burgdorferi surface antigens were monitored via a superinfection model over the course of 70 days. B. burgdorferi-infected mice were subjected to secondary challenge by heterologous B. burgdorferi at different time points postinfection (p.i.). When the infected mice were superinfected with a VlsE-deficient clone (?VlsE) at day 28 p.i., the active anti-B. burgdorferi immune response did not prevent ?VlsE-induced spirochetemia. In contrast, most mice blocked culture-detectable spirochetemia induced by wild-type B. burgdorferi (WT), indicating that VlsE was likely the primary target of the antibody response. As the B. burgdorferi infection further progressed, however, reversed outcomes were observed. At day 70 p.i. the host immune response to non-VlsE antigens became sufficiently potent to clear spirochetemia induced by ?VlsE and yet failed to prevent WT-induced spirochetemia. To test if any significant changes in the anti-B. burgdorferi antibody repertoire accounted for the observed outcomes, global profiles of antibody specificities were determined. However, comparison of mimotopes revealed no major difference between day 28 and day 70 antibody repertoires.
Project description:Many pathogens make use of antigenic variation as a way to evade the host immune response. A key mechanism for immune evasion and persistent infection by the Lyme disease spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi, is antigenic variation of the VlsE surface protein. Recombination results in changes in the VlsE surface protein that prevent recognition by VlsE-specific antibodies in the infected host. Despite the presence of a substantial number of additional proteins residing on the bacterial surface, VlsE is the only known antigen that exhibits ongoing variation of its surface epitopes. This suggests that B. burgdorferi may utilize a VlsE-mediated system for immune avoidance of its surface antigens. To address this, the requirement of VlsE for host reinfection by the Lyme disease pathogen was investigated. Host-adapted wild type and VlsE mutant spirochetes were used to reinfect immunocompetent mice that had naturally cleared an infection with a VlsE-deficient clone. Our results demonstrate that variable VlsE is necessary for reinfection by B. burgdorferi, and this ability is directly related to evasion of the host antibody response. Moreover, the data presented here raise the possibility that VlsE prevents recognition of B. burgdorferi surface antigens from host antibodies. Overall, our findings represent a significant advance in our knowledge of immune evasion by B. burgdorferi, and provide insight to the possible mechanisms involved in VlsE-mediated immune avoidance.
Project description:Lyme disease in the United States is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto, which is transmitted to mammals by infected ticks. Borrelia spirochetes differentially express immunogenic outer surface proteins (Osp). Our aim was to evaluate antibody responses to Osp antigens to aid the diagnosis of early infection and the management of Lyme disease. We analyzed antibody responses during the first 3 months after the experimental infection of dogs using a novel multiplex assay. Results were compared to those obtained with two commercial assays detecting C6 antigen. Multiplex analysis identified antibodies to OspC and C6 as early as 3 weeks postinfection (p.i.) and those to OspF by 5 weeks p.i. Antibodies to C6 and OspF increased throughout the study, while antibodies to OspC peaked between 7 and 11 weeks p.i. and declined thereafter. A short-term antibody response to OspA was observed in 3/8 experimentally infected dogs on day 21 p.i. Quant C6 enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) results matched multiplex results during the first 7 weeks p.i.; however, antibody levels subsequently declined by up to 29%. Immune responses then were analyzed in sera from 125 client-owned dogs and revealed high agreement between antibodies to OspF and C6 as robust markers for infection. Results from canine patient sera supported that OspC is an early infection marker and antibodies to OspC decline over time. The onset and decline of antibody responses to B. burgdorferi Osp antigens and C6 reflect their differential expression during infection. They provide valuable tools to determine the stage of infection, treatment outcomes, and vaccination status in dogs.
Project description:Arp is an immunogenic protein of the Lyme disease spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi and contributes to joint inflammation during infection. Despite Arp eliciting a strong humoral response, antibodies fail to clear the infection. Given previous evidence of immune avoidance mediated by the antigenically variable lipoprotein of B. burgdorferi, VlsE, we use passive immunization assays to examine whether VlsE protects the pathogen from anti-Arp antibodies. The results show that spirochetes are only able to successfully infect passively immunized mice when VlsE is expressed. Subsequent immunofluorescence assays reveal that VlsE prevents binding of Arp-specific antibodies, thereby providing an explanation for the failure of Arp antisera to clear the infection. The results also show that the shielding effect of VlsE is not universal for all B. burgdorferi cell-surface antigens. The findings reported here represent a direct demonstration of VlsE-mediated protection of a specific B. burgdorferi surface antigen through a possible epitope-shielding mechanism.
Project description:The VlsE lipoprotein of Borrelia burgdorferi elicits a strong immune response during the course of Lyme disease. The present study was aimed at characterization of the epitopes of VlsE targeted by the antibody response in patients with post-Lyme disease syndrome, a condition characterized by persisting symptoms of pain, fatigue, and/or neurocognitive impairment despite antibiotic treatment of B. burgdorferi infection. Epitope mapping was carried out using microarrays that contained synthesized overlapping peptides covering the full sequence of VlsE from B. burgdorferi B31. In addition to the previously characterized IR6 region in the variable domain, specific sequences in the N- and C-terminal invariable domains of VlsE were found to be major B cell epitopes in affected patients. The crystal structure of VlsE indicated that the newly described epitopes form a contiguous region in the surface-exposed membrane-proximal part of the monomeric form of the protein.
Project description:Borrelia burgdorferi, the Lyme disease pathogen causes persistent infection by evading the host immune response. Differential expression of the surface-exposed lipoprotein VlsE that undergoes antigenic variation is a key immune evasion strategy employed by B. burgdorferi. Most studies focused on the mechanism of VlsE antigen variation, but little is known about VlsE regulation and factor(s) that regulates differential vlsE expression. In this study, we investigated BB0025, a putative YebC family transcriptional regulator (and hence designated BB0025 as YebC of B. burgdorferi herein). We constructed yebC mutant and complemented strain in an infectious strain of B. burgdorferi. The yebC mutant could infect immunocompromised SCID mice but not immunocompetent mice, suggesting that YebC plays an important role in evading host adaptive immunity. RNA-seq analyses identified vlsE as one of the genes whose expression was most affected by YebC. Quantitative RT-PCR and Western blot analyses confirmed that vlsE expression was dependent on YebC. In vitro, YebC and VlsE were co-regulated in response to growth temperature. In mice, both yebC and vlsE were inversely expressed with ospC in response to the host adaptive immune response. Furthermore, EMSA proved that YebC directly binds to the vlsE promoter, suggesting a direct transcriptional control. These data demonstrate that YebC is a new regulator that modulates expression of vlsE and other genes important for spirochetal infection and immune evasion in the mammalian host.
Project description:There is currently a need for improved serological tests for the diagnosis and monitoring of Lyme disease, an infection caused by Borrelia burgdorferi. In the present study, we evaluated luciferase immunoprecipitation systems (LIPSs) for use for profiling of the antibody responses to a panel of B. burgdorferi proteins for the diagnosis of Lyme disease. Initially, serum samples from a cohort of patients and controls (n = 46) were used for training and were profiled by the use of 15 different B. burgdorferi antigen constructs. For the patient sera, the antibody responses to several B. burgdorferi antigens, including VlsE, flagellin (FlaB), BmpA, DbpA, and DbpB, indicated that the antigens had high levels of immunoreactivity. However, the best diagnostic performance was achieved with a synthetic protein, designated VOVO, consisting of a repeated antigenic peptide sequence, VlsE-OspC-VlsE-OspC, Analysis of an independent set of serum samples (n = 139) used for validation showed that the VOVO LIPS test had 98% sensitivity (95% confidence interval [CI], 93% to 100%; P < 0.0001) and 100% specificity (95% CI, 94% to 100%; P < 0.0001). Similarly, the C6 peptide enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) also had 98% sensitivity (95% CI, 93% to 100%; P < 0.0001) and 98% specificity (95% CI, 90% to 100%; P < 0.0001). Receiver operating characteristic analysis revealed that the rates of detection of Lyme disease by the LIPS test and the C6 ELISA were not statistically different. However, the VOVO LIPS test displayed a wide dynamic range of antibody detection spanning over 10,000-fold without the need for serum dilution. These results suggest that screening by the LIPS test with VOVO and other B. burgdorferi antigens offers an efficient quantitative approach for evaluation of the antibody responses in patients with Lyme disease.
Project description:The Lyme disease spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi, causes a persistent infection in the vertebrate host even though infected animals mount an active immune response against the spirochete. One strategy used by the spirochete to evade vertebrate host immunity is to vary the structure and expression of outer membrane antigens. The vlsE locus represents the best-studied example of antigenic variation in B. burgdorferi. During vertebrate host infection, recombination between the active vlsE locus and silent, partial vlsE copies leads to gene conversion events and the generation of novel alleles at the expression site. In the present study, we followed a population of B. burgdorferi organisms moving through vertebrate host and tick stages to complete one transmission cycle. The major goal of the study was to determine if the vlsE locus was subject to different selective pressure and/or recombination frequency at different stages of the spirochete's life cycle. We report here that the vlsE genetic diversity generated within the rodent host was maintained through the larval and nymphal tick stages. Therefore, naturally infected ticks are likely to transmit spirochete populations with multiple vlsE alleles into naive vertebrate hosts. Although vlsE genetic diversity in mice was maintained through tick stages, the dominant vlsE alleles were different between tick stages as well as between individual ticks. We propose that population-level bottlenecks experienced by spirochetes, especially during the larval-to-nymphal molt, are responsible for individual infected ticks harboring different dominant vlsE alleles. Although vlsE genetic diversity is maintained through tick stages, the VlsE protein is unlikely to be of functional importance in the vector, because the protein was expressed by very few (<1%) bacteria in the vector.
Project description:Lyme borreliosis (LB) is a tick-borne infection caused by Borrelia burgdorferi. Dogs are at high risk of exposure to ticks and tick-borne pathogens, including B. burgdorferi. Immunodiagnostic assays are usually based on whole-cell preparations of B. burgdorferi as substrate and, consequently, interpretation of results is confounded by antibody cross-reactivity between borrelial antigens and other bacterial species, as well as the anti-LB vaccination status of the dog. For this study, we examined sera from 33 dogs that were experimentally infected with B. burgdorferi through tick bite. These sera were compared with sera from uninfected dogs in their reactivities to 72 different recombinant B. burgdorferi antigens and 24 OspC protein types on a protein microarray. Amongst antigens frequently recognized by infected dogs were several known to be immunogens for humans, such as Decorin-binding protein A (BBA25), BBA64, fibronectin-binding protein (BBK32), VlsE, Erp and Bdr, CRASP proteins, OspC proteins and some flagellar antigens. Of special interest were the novel antigens BBB14 and BB0844, both hypothetical lipoproteins about which very little is currently known, and that were frequently and strongly recognized by infected dog sera. The antibody response of B. burgdorferi-infected dogs presents both similarities and differences from human counterparts, and both can be important for improvement of canine LB diagnosis and vaccine development. Antibody profiling was performed on sera from dogs experimentally-infected with B. burgdorferi and unexposed controls against antigens of B. burgdorferi. Thirty-three serum samples from experimental infections, and 5 unexposed controls were probed on a protein microarray displaying 24 OspC proteins of B. burgdorferi .
Project description:Lyme borreliosis (LB) is a tick-borne infection caused by Borrelia burgdorferi. Dogs are at high risk of exposure to ticks and tick-borne pathogens, including B. burgdorferi. Immunodiagnostic assays are usually based on whole-cell preparations of B. burgdorferi as substrate and, consequently, interpretation of results is confounded by antibody cross-reactivity between borrelial antigens and other bacterial species, as well as the anti-LB vaccination status of the dog. For this study, we examined sera from 33 dogs that were experimentally infected with B. burgdorferi through tick bite. These sera were compared with sera from uninfected dogs in their reactivities to 72 different recombinant B. burgdorferi polypeptides on a protein microarray. Amongst antigens frequently recognized by infected dogs were several known to be immunogens for humans, such as Decorin-binding protein A (BBA25), BBA64, fibronectin-binding protein (BBK32), VlsE, Erp and Bdr, CRASP proteins, OspC proteins and some flagellar antigens. Of special interest were the novel antigens BBB14 and BB0844, both hypothetical lipoproteins about which very little is currently known, and that were frequently and strongly recognized by infected dog sera. The antibody response of B. burgdorferi-infected dogs presents both similarities and differences from human counterparts, and both can be important for improvement of canine LB diagnosis and vaccine development. Antibody profiling was performed on sera from dogs experimentally-infected with B. burgdorferi and unexposed controls against antigens of B. burgdorferi. Thirty-three serum samples from experimental infections, and 6 unexposed controls were probed on a protein microarray displaying 72 unique proteins of B. burgdorferi .
Project description:Expression and recombination of the antigenic variation vlsE gene of the Lyme disease spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi were analyzed in the tick vector. To assess vlsE expression, Ixodes scapularis nymphs infected with the B. burgdorferi strain B31 were fed on mice for 48 or 96 h or to repletion and then crushed and acetone fixed either immediately thereafter (ticks collected at the two earlier time points) or 4 days after repletion. Unfed nymphs also were examined. At all of the time points investigated, spirochetes were able to bind a rabbit antibody raised against the conserved invariable region 6 of VlsE, as assessed by indirect immunofluorescence, but not preimmune serum from the same rabbit. This same antibody also bound to B31 spirochetes cultivated in vitro. Intensity of fluorescence appeared highest in cultured spirochetes, followed by spirochetes present in unfed ticks. Only a dim fluorescent signal was observed on spirochetes at the 48 and 96 h time points and at day 4 postrepletion. Expression of vlsE in vitro was affected by a rise in pH from 7.0 to 8.0 at 34 degrees C. Hence, vlsE expression appears to be sensitive to environmental cues of the type found in the B. burgdorferi natural history. To assess vlsE recombination, nymphs were capillary fed the B. burgdorferi B31 clonal isolate 5A3. Ticks thus infected were either left to rest for 4 weeks (Group I) or fed to repletion on a mouse (Group II). The contents of each tick from both groups were cultured and 10 B. burgdorferi clones from the spirochetal isolate of each tick were obtained. The vlsE cassettes from several of these clones were amplified by PCR and sequenced. Regardless of whether the isolate was derived from Group I or Group II ticks, no changes were observed in the vlsE sequence. In contrast, vlsE cassettes amplified from B. burgdorferi clones derived from a mouse that was infected with B31-5A3 capillary-fed nymphs showed considerable recombination. It follows that vlsE recombination does not occur in the tick vector.