Protective niche for Borrelia burgdorferi to evade humoral immunity

Am J Pathol. 2004 Sep;165(3):977-85. doi: 10.1016/S0002-9440(10)63359-7.


The Lyme disease spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi, is an extracellular microbe that causes persistent infection despite the development of strong immune responses against the bacterium. B. burgdorferi expresses several ligand-binding lipoproteins, including the decorin-binding proteins (Dbps) A and B, which may mediate attachment to decorin, a major component of the host extracellular matrix during murine infection. We show that B. burgdorferi was better protected in the joints and skin, two tissues with a higher decorin expression, than in the urinary bladder and heart, two tissues with a lower decorin expression, during chronic infection of wild-type mice. Targeted disruption of decorin alone completely abolished the protective niche in chronically infected decorin-deficient mice but did not affect the spirochete burden during early infection. The nature of protection appeared to be specific because the spirochetes with higher outer surface protein C expression were not protected while the protective niche seemed to favor the spirochetes with a higher dbpA expression during chronic infection. These data suggest that spirochetal DbpA may interact with host decorin during infection and such interactions could be a mechanism that B. burgdorferi uses to evade humoral immunity and establish chronic infection.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adhesins, Bacterial / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Antibody Formation*
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins / physiology*
  • Bacterial Proteins / physiology*
  • Borrelia burgdorferi / immunology*
  • Decorin
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins
  • Heart / microbiology
  • Heart / physiopathology
  • Homozygote
  • Joints / immunology
  • Joints / microbiology
  • Joints / pathology
  • Lyme Disease / immunology*
  • Lyme Disease / microbiology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mice, SCID
  • Proteoglycans / genetics
  • Proteoglycans / physiology*
  • Skin / immunology
  • Skin / microbiology
  • Skin / pathology
  • Urinary Bladder / immunology
  • Urinary Bladder / microbiology
  • Urinary Bladder / pathology


  • Adhesins, Bacterial
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Dcn protein, mouse
  • DdpA protein, Borrelia burgdorferi
  • DdpB protein, Borrelia burgdorferi
  • Decorin
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins
  • Proteoglycans