Epitope-specific evolution of human B cell responses to borrelia burgdorferi VlsE protein from early to late stages of lyme disease

Elzbieta Jacek, Kevin S. Tang, Lars Komorowski, Mary Ajamian, Christian Probst, Brian Stevenson, Gary P. Wormser, Adriana R. Marques, Armin Alaedini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Most immunogenic proteins of Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease, are known or expected to contain multiple B cell epitopes. However, the kinetics of the development of human B cell responses toward the various epitopes of individual proteins during the course of Lyme disease has not been examined. Using the highly immunogenic VlsE as a model Ag, we investigated the evolution of humoral immune responses toward its immunodominant sequences in 90 patients with a range of early to late manifestations of Lyme disease. The results demonstrate the existence of asynchronous, independently developing, Ab responses against the two major immunogenic regions of the VlsE molecule in the human host. Despite their strong immunogenicity, the target epitopes were inaccessible to Abs on intact spirochetes, suggesting a lack of direct immunoprotective effect. These observations document the association of immune reactivity toward specific VlsE sequences with different phases of Lyme disease, demonstrating the potential use of detailed epitope mapping of Ags for staging of the infection, and offer insights regarding the pathogen's possible immune evasion mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1036-1043
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Siu-Ping Turk, Carla Williams, Doreen Garabedian, Diane Holmgren, Donna McKenna, and Susan Bittker for their assistance with specimen collection and organization.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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