Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) Lyme disease, the most prevalent vector-borne illness in the United States, is a multisystem inflammatory disorder caused by infection with the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb). This spirochete is maintained in nature through an enzootic cycle involving ticks and small mammals. The Bb genome encodes a large number of surface lipoproteins, many of which are expressed during mammalian infection. One of these lipoproteins is the major outer surface protein C (OspC) whose production is induced during transmission as spirochetes transition from ticks to mammals. OspC is required for Bb to establish infection in mice and has been proposed to facilitate evasion of innate immunity. However, the exact biological function of OspC remains elusive. Our studies show the ospC-deficient spirochete could not establish infection in NOD-scid IL2rÎ³null mice that lack B cells, T cells, NK cells, and lytic complement, whereas the wild-type spirochete was fully infectious in these mice. The ospC mutant also could not establish infection in SCID and C3H mice that were transiently neutropenic during the first 48 h post-challenge. However, depletion of F4/80+ phagocytes at the skin-site of inoculation in SCID mice allowed the ospC mutant to establish infection in vivo. In phagocyte-depleted SCID mice, the ospC mutant was capable to colonize the joints and triggered neutrophilia during dissemination in a similar pattern as wild-type bacteria. We then constructed GFP-expressing Bb strains to evaluate the interaction of the ospC mutant with phagocytes. Using flow cytometry and fluorometric assay for phagocytosis, we found that phagocytosis of GFP-expressing ospC mutant spirochetes by murine peritoneal macrophages and human THP-1 cells was significantly higher than parental wild-type Bb strains, suggesting that OspC has an anti-phagocytic property. This enhancement in phagocytosis was not mediated by MARCO and CD36 scavenger receptors and was not associated with changes in mRNA levels of TNFÎ±, IL-1Î², and IL-10. Phagocytosis assays with HL60 neutrophil-like cells showed that uptake of Bb strains was independent to OspC. Together, our findings reveal that F4/80+ phagocytes are important for clearance of the ospC mutant, and suggest that OspC promotes spirochetes' evasion of macrophages in the skin of mice during early Lyme borreliosis.
Borrelia Burgdorferi ; Ef-Tu ; Infection ; Lyme Disease ; Ospc ; Phagocytes ; Lyme Disease ; Borrelia Burgdorferi -- Research ; Protein C ; Lyme Disease -- Molecular Aspects ; Relapsing Fever ; Spirochetes -- Molecular Aspects ; Bacteria
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