Resolution of experimental and tick-borne Borrelia burgdorferi infection in mice by passive, but not active immunization using recombinant OspC

Eur J Immunol. 1999 Mar;29(3):946-57. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1521-4141(199903)29:03<946::AID-IMMU946>3.0.CO;2-P.


Vaccination with outer surface protein A (OspA) of Borrelia burgdorferi prevents subsequent infection and disease in both laboratory animals and humans with high efficacy. OspA-based immunity, however, does not affect established infection due to the loss of OspA expression in the vertebrate host. We show here that repeated passive transfer of mouse and/or rabbit immune sera to recombinant GST-OspC fusion protein resulted in a dose-dependent resolution (1) of fully established arthritis and carditis as well as infection in needle-challenged C.B-17 SCID and (2) of infection in both experimentally and tick-infected BALB/c mice. Unexpectedly, active immunization of disease-susceptible AKR/N mice with GST-OspC only led to prevention but not resolution of disease and infection, in spite of high serum titers of OspC-specific Ab and the expression of ospC in tissue-derived spirochetes. The data suggest that the efficacy of OspC antibody-mediated immunity depends on the immunological history of the recipient and/or environment-dependent regulation of OspC surface expression by spirochetes in vivo. The results encourage further attempts to develop therapeutic vaccination protocols against Lyme disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Bacterial / immunology*
  • Antigens, Bacterial*
  • Antigens, Surface / genetics
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins / immunology*
  • Bacterial Vaccines / immunology*
  • Borrelia burgdorferi Group / immunology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Gene Expression
  • Glutathione Transferase / genetics
  • Glutathione Transferase / immunology
  • Immunization, Passive / methods*
  • Kinetics
  • Lipoproteins*
  • Lyme Disease / prevention & control*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred AKR
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, SCID
  • Rabbits
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / immunology
  • Ticks
  • Vaccination / methods*
  • Vaccines, Synthetic / immunology*


  • Antibodies, Bacterial
  • Antigens, Bacterial
  • Antigens, Surface
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins
  • Bacterial Vaccines
  • Lipoproteins
  • OspA protein
  • OspC protein
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Vaccines, Synthetic
  • Glutathione Transferase