Temporal Analysis of Borrelia burgdorferi Erp Protein Expression throughout the Mammal-Tick Infectious Cycle

Jennifer C. Miller, Kate Von Lackum, Kelly Babb, Jason D. McAlister, Brian Stevenson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


Previous immunological studies indicated that the Lyme disease spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi, expresses Erp outer surface proteins during mammalian infection. We conducted analyses of Erp expression throughout the entire tick-mammal infectious cycle, which revealed that the bacteria regulate Erp production in vivo. Bacteria within unfed nymphal ticks expressed little to no Erp proteins. However, as infected ticks fed on mice, B. burgdorferi increased production of Erp proteins, with essentially all transmitted bacteria expressing these proteins. Mice infected with B. burgdorferi mounted rapid IgM responses to all tested Erp proteins, followed by strong immunoglobulin G responses that generally increased in intensity throughout 11 months of infection, suggesting continued exposure of Erp proteins to the host immune system throughout chronic infection. As naive tick larvae acquired B. burgdorferi by feeding on infected mice, essentially all transmitted bacteria produced Erp proteins, also suggestive of continual Erp expression during mammalian infection. Shortly after the larvae acquired bacteria, Erp production was drastically downregulated. The expression of Erp proteins on B. burgdorferi throughout mammalian infection is consistent with their hypothesized function as factor H-binding proteins that protect the bacteria from host innate immune responses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6943-6952
Number of pages10
JournalInfection and Immunity
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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