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Essential Role for OspA/B in the Life Cycle of the Lyme Disease Spirochete

By Xiaofeng F. Yang, Utpal Pal, Sophie M. Alani, Erol Fikrig and Michael V. Norgard


The molecular basis of how Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb), the Lyme disease spirochete, maintains itself in nature via a complex life cycle in ticks and mammals is poorly understood. Outer surface (lipo)protein A (OspA) of Bb has been the most intensively studied of all borrelial molecular constituents, and hence, much has been speculated about the potential role(s) of OspA in the life cycle of Bb. However, the precise function of OspA (along with that of its close relative and operonic partner, outer surface [lipo]protein B [OspB]) heretofore has not been directly determined, due primarily to the inability to generate an OspA/B-deficient mutant from a virulent strain of Bb. In this study, we created an OspA/B-deficient mutant of an infectious human isolate of Bb (strain 297) and found that OspA/B function was not required for either Bb infection of mice or accompanying tissue pathology. However, OspA/B function was essential for Bb colonization of and survival within tick midguts, events crucial for sustaining Bb in its natural enzootic life cycle

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